Parents Beware….There is an invisible monster out there lurking within some of the most basic items that we provide ourselves and our children without giving it much thought, or at least thought related to the real hazard(s) contained within. If you are like me, every time my children ask for a soft drink, I think twice before answering. I immediately begin reviewing the checklist inside my mind about the “empty” calories, excessive sugar, caffeine, acidic nature and their teeth, etc….What I never considered was the effects of BPA on my children.
I’m sure most of you have heard about or are at least familiar with the recent controversy and studies that have been conducted about the harmful effects of BPA or Bisphenol A. There have been countless articles reported in news papers, the news, online, medical journals and even magazines providing consumers “warnings” and “tips” on how to avoid this harmful agent. This article is to provide you with more substantial information in an effort to insure that you make the necessary changes to protect you and your family from unintentional harm.
BPA or Bisphenol A is a polycarbonate plastic and a chemical that behaves like a synthetic hormone in our body. It is commonly used in the production of clear plastic(s) like those used for food storage, hard water bottles, sippie cups and baby bottles. It is also used in the lining of canned foods, aluminum soft drink and beverage cans, and most shocking of all in the cans containing infant “liquid” baby formulas. BPA has been known to leach,to dissolve and be washed away, from the plastic lining of canned foods and liquids and to a lesser degree, although certainly not to be excused, from polycarbonate plastics that are repetitively cleaned with harsh detergents or those containing acidic or high-temperature liquids such as baby formula within a bottle. Most of BPA’s exposures are through the consumption of foods and beverages, however BPA can also occur through the absorption via air and skin.
Between the years 1988 – 1994, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, aka CDC, conducted studies on adults and the levels of BPA found in their urine. Of the adults studied, 95% reflected exposure to BPA. Additional studies were conducted in 2003 – 2004 with 93% of the test results of both children and adults indicating exposure to BPA. Shockingly, infants fed liquid baby formulas were among those most exposed.
In a recent study (April 2008) conducted at Harvard School of Public Health, seventy-seven Harvard College students agreed to participate in a study to determine the levels of BPA that are released into the body from consuming “cold, liquid” beverages from clear, water bottles. The study included a week of “cleansing” their bodies only consuming beverages from stainless steel containers. At the end of the week of cleansing, urine samples were taken to determine a baseline for each participant. The students were provided two plastic bottles from which to drink all “cold” beverages during the course of the study. At the end of the week, urine samples were again provided. After urinalysis results were obtained, it was discovered that each reflected 69% BPA in their urine. This sampling is similar to results found in the population at large.
Many studies have been conducted and released on the harmful effects found in laboratory animals after consuming levels of BPA. The effects from BPA have been determined to affect reproductive development in animals through the disruption of hormones leading to early sexual maturity, changes in the development and organization of tissues in the mammary glands, and the reduction of sperm in the offspring of the affected organisms. Additionally, studies have linked cardiovascular disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, prostate and breast cancer in humans to BPA. The health effects of BPA are a result of low acute toxicity which can lead to long-term chronic toxicity in humans if something isn’t done to eliminate the harmful chemical from our lives. As recent as December 2009, studies concluded that traces of BPA were found in the blood of pregnant women, their breast milk and in the umbilical cords of American children. What can we do?
Other than contacting our legislators and demanding action be taken to increase funding and the implementation of government regulation of this harmful chemical’s inclusion in our food and food containers, we can do several things to protect ourselves:
- Choose stainless steel or glass bottles for storing food and consuming beverages.
- If you must use plastic, check and select bottles reflecting BPA-Free with recycling codes No. 1, 2, and 5. Type 7 (all other plastics) which, along with type 3, have been those linked to the harmful effects of BPA. If, however, the bottle you are considering is labeled Type 7 BPA-Free and is without the polycarbonate marking, it is considered safe to use.
- Avoid canned foods.
- The National Toxicology Panel suggests that if you must microwave food, remove it from plastic containers and place it in or on glass to microwave.
- Avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher as the heat breaks down the chemical composition of plastic and can cause leaching of BPA in future uses of the container.
- Use gentle dishwashing detergents instead of harsh cleansers which also contribute to leaching in plastics.
- Throw away scratched or worn baby bottles or cups made with BPA as they can leach the harmful chemical into the contents to be consumed.
- Avoid putting hot liquids or beverages into cups or bottles with BPA. The heat also releases BPA into the contents.
- Always check containers that you place into the microwave to determine if they are microwave safe.
- It has been recommended that parents review the contents of their cupboards and eliminate anything, food storage containers, cups, cooking utensils, plastic storage bags, etc….that can contain BPA.
Although steps are being taken to reduce the production of and inclusion of this toxic chemical into our food and household products, working at a state level may prove most beneficial as it seems to be at a standstill at the federal level who in the past 34 years have only regulated five out of 82,000 toxic chemicals under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Of late, positive gains have been made as six of the major baby bottle manufacturing companies in the United States will cease using BPA in it’s baby bottles. The rest is up to us.
Contact your legislator if you have additional comments or concerns on issues related to BPA. Perhaps if all of us bombard our Congressmen with our concerns, our voices will be heard and something done. Remember the “Who’s” in “Whoville?” (Dr. Seuss)
BPA can be found in many additional household items like bed-wetting liners, mattresses, pillows and even children’s toys. For more information on BPA, you can visit any one of these websites.