Bisphenol A (BPA)
From Truth Exposed
Recently, there has been an increase in concerns over Bisphenol A (BPA) in many countries over the safety of this common plastic. Many news shows are running stories investigating possible health concerns caused by the plastic leaching into food, some countries going as far as banning the plastic in certain product types.
The arguments between the scientific communities and plastics industries over the product’s safety seem never-ending; plastics industry lobbyists are saying the plastic is safe but independent and academic tests say otherwise, TruthExposed has done the homework and this is what we found.
What is it and what is it used for?
Bisphenol A (also referred to as BPA) is one of the building blocks of various types of plastic, polycarbonate plastic in particular. BPA is also used as an additive to other plastics, often to prevent rigid plastics from shattering or as a hardener, to strengthen other plastic types.
With over 6 billion pounds/2.7 billion kilograms produced each year, the plastic’s primary use is in the food industry where foods will be stored in plastic containers and/or packaging. BPA is also used in the coating on the inside of tin and aluminum cans to prevent the food or beverage interacting with the metal.
Why should you be concerned?
The cause for concern is with the properties of BPA when absorbed into the body. Being an endocrine disruptor, the compound actually mimics estrogen (also called a xenoestrogen, “xeno” meaning foreign) In fact, during the thirties when the compound was first discovered, it was intended to be used as an estrogen drug!
Health problems with BPA include increased risk of breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, thyroid disfunction, miscarriage and accelerated puberty. Tests have also shown that BPA dramatically accelerates the growth of active breast cancer cells.
A serious issue is the effect that BPA has on younger people, especially infants, particularly because their food intake to body weight ratio is much higher. There is a lot of controversy over the BPA present in baby bottles and infant formula packaging. 90% of all government studies have found harmful effects on pregnant women and infants. Laboratory tests have shown that BPA exposure in baby rats produces cancer, reproductive system failures and adverse neural and behavioral effects.
Although many studies on BPA have been conducted, the results seem to cover both sides of the argument. Independent studies conclude that there are many risks, as described above, with BPA. The other studies (interestingly enough, those funded by industry) claim the risks to be negligible if any.
An investigative report by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel uncovered some concerning facts. The investigation found that in 2007 a panel of experts who directly studied BPA found great cause for concern regarding the risks of BPA on the human body. At the same time, the National Toxicology Program (N.T.P.) convened a panel of scientists who had not directly studied BPA but would evaluate the work of those who did. Some of the studies were chosen, in part, by a consultant with links to firms that manufacture BPA. The investigation also found that the panel rejected academic studies that found harm - citing inadequate methods, but accepted industry funded studies using the same methods that concluded the chemical does not pose risks. The panel also accepted two studies funded by former BPA manufacturer, General Electric conducted in 1976. Many studies were also disregarded by the panel because they believed them to be conducted poorly, therefore no studies remained that showed effects from low doses.
It’s easy to see that the decisions made are not so much scientific, but political and financial.
How does BPA get into your food?
Keeping the chemistry jargon to a minimum; the ester bond that links BPA monomers to one another to form a polymer is not stable and hence the polymer decays with time, releasing BPA into materials with which it comes into contact. Foods and beverages with a higher acidity cause BPA to leach into the food much faster, so products like cola, citric drinks, canned tomatoes and canned fruit will have a higher BPA than other less acidic foods.
Temperature also is one of the main accelerators of BPA leaching; an experiment was conducted using bottles of water at room temperature and bottles containing boiling water to test the speed at which BPA was released yielded surprising results. With room temperature water, BPA was released at a rate of 0.2 to 0.8 nano-grams per hour. The BPA was released 15 to 55 times faster with the boiling water, with a rate of 8 to 32 nano-grams per hour. This certainly raises concerns when using plastic containers and plastic wrap on food in a microwave as high temperatures and radiation in the microwave oven can make BPA even more unstable.
Another experiment on BPA leaching from plastic bottles and tin cans was conducted where the contents of soft drink bottles and canned tomatoes were emptied and replaced with pure water and left to sit for 24 hours. The BPA level was then tested to measure how much had leached into the pure water. BPA was found to be leaching into the pure water at levels in the upper reaches of the current safety margin, nearing the limits of what is considered safe even without the original acidic product.
What is being done?
Canada has become the first country to officially ban BPA plastics in baby bottles and Chicago became the first US city to do the same. Many US states are also voluntarily issuing bans on the plastic’s use in baby products, forcing some major manufacturers to change to non BPA plastics.
In January 2010 the FDA issued new warnings and concerns over the safety of BPA plastic, although the FDA has not officially changed the current safety status of BPA, new investigations are being conducted and TruthExposed will update this article as new studies are released.
How can you avoid BPA?
Until new regulations are made, BPA will remain in many household items. Here’s a few tips on how you can avoid BPA plastics in your home:
- Try to avoid purchasing products contained in plastic or cans and store foods in glass if possible. Canned tomatoes are a great example, they have some of the highest BPA levels in canned foods and there are plenty of alternatives sold in glass jars.
- Find out which companies are using alternative plastics to manufacture baby bottles and package infant food in your country and switch to them. Infants are most at risk from the effects of BPA plastics.
- If using canned food, don’t use a metal utensil to scrape out the contents of the can; the lining in cans is easily damaged and contains high amounts of BPA. To avoid scraping off the lining, use a wooden spoon instead.
- As mentioned earlier, avoid putting plastic containers in the microwave, put the food on a plate instead.
- Avoid using harsh detergents or putting the container in the dishwasher as these will degrade the plastic and increase the leaching of BPA.
One way you can tell if the plastic containers you use contain BPA is to look at the small recycle logo usually found on the bottom of most plastic products. Most BPA plastic is found in products with the number 7, however, numbers 1, 2 and 5 have shown BPA presence as well.
It’s not always easy to tell the makeup of some plastics as there is not always one of these logos on the product, it may have only been printed on the original box or wrapper. Baking utensils, measuring cups and blender jugs are some examples.
If there is one thing we here at TruthExposed recommend you NEVER do, it’s heat a plastic baby bottle in the microwave. Scientists have found them to release “toxic doses” of BPA and cause neurological and developmental damage in laboratory animals. While we’re on the subject, be wary of plastic containers advertised as “microwave safe”, the term is not regulated by government, so it has no verifiable legal meaning. We recommend using glass or ceramics instead.
You don’t have to avoid plastic like it’s the plague, just take steps minimize your exposure to plastic products that may pose risks (those with the recycle code “7” in particular). Sometimes BPA may be unavoidable, but as long as you are conscious of what products contain BPA, you will be able to make better choices about the products you use and how you can minimize your exposure.