Saturday, August 30, 2008

The BPA Primer

I borrowed the following from The Green Mommy. It is an excellant explanation of BPA which is a main componant of most plastics. Plus I have nothing interesting to say today except that Holyoke did a great job on the Fireworks!

What is Bisphenol-A (BPA)?
BPA is a chemical compound invented in the
late 19th century by a Russian chemist. Manufacturers use this industrial
chemical to primarily to produce polycarbonate plastics like plastic water and
baby bottles, plastic children’s toys, pacifiers, CDs and DVDs, medical
equipment and much more. It is also used to manufacture epoxy resins like those
found in food cans, circuit boards, dental sealants and some paint.

In short, if it’s plastic it probably contains BPA. The US, on average,
manufactures almost 800 million kilograms of the stuff each year. It is

What’s wrong with Bisphenol-A (BPA)?
Oral toxicity of BPA is
relatively low. For example, your average lab rat would have to eat 3.25 grams
of the stuff to kick the bucket. But I doubt any of my readers would consider
pouring themselves a bowl of BPA and chowing down.

The real concern regarding BPA lies in consistent, long-term exposure
to the chemical. You see, BPA is a known endocrine-disruptor. The chemicals that
comprise BPA–when compounded as they are–mimic estrogen in the body. Our medical
and scientific community has known about BPA’s estrogenic effects since the
early 1930s. That’s almost eighty years.

What are the health risks and diseases associated with exposure to BPA?
The risks are many, and great. As more research continues on the subject of
BPA exposure and health issues, the chemical is linked to a greater number of
diseases. This represents a short list.
Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
Breast Cancer

Reproductive System Cancers
Ovarian Cysts
Decrease in Male Fertility

But isn’t our exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA) minimal?
“Minimal” is a
subjective term.
The American
Chemistry Council
, PlasticsEurope and Japan Chemical Industry Association over at would have you
believe that your exposure to BPA is minimal indeed and utterly safe, but do you
really trust the industry–those who profit on the continued production of this
chemical–to give you a straight and honest answer on its safety?
Sadly, a 6-year
study on BPA exposure
indicates that 95% of the adult population is so
exposed to BPA that we actually excrete the chemical in our urine. A different study conducted in 2003 and 2004 concluded that 93%
of tested children excrete the chemical through their urine. The chemical is
also present in the amniotic fluid of pregnant mothers as well as the cord blood of the infant at birth.

When it comes down to it, do you want to to expose your body or your
children’s bodies to any level of a known endocrine disruptor or human

What’s the government doing about bisphenol-A (BPA)?
While the US
government seems to have little interest in protecting its population from the
negative effects of BPA, other governments are taking the lead in fighting
against BPA’s manufacture and use. On April 18th of this year, Canada became the first nation to ban the use of BPA in baby
thus helping to protect the nation’s youngest citizens from greater
exposure to the chemical. Canada’s ban is slated to become law in October 2008.
The City of San Francisco, always a forerunner on issues such as this one,
banned the sale of products for young children that contain BPA (like baby
bottles) in 2006.

If you are concerned about BPA exposure and would like to see your
government follow Canada’s lead, contact your legislative representatives. (US
citizens can do so here.)
How are we exposed to Bisphenol-a (BPA)?

While BPA is everywhere, food and drinking containers seem to pose the
single greatest risk for BPA exposure for adults and children, while the fetuses are exposed to the chemical through their mothers.
Breast-fed infants are exposed to limited amounts of BPA through their mothers’
milk while infants who are formula fed are exposed to approximately 11 times
that amount through infant formula and plastic baby bottles.

Examples of Products Containing Bisphenol-A (BPA):
While this list
is hardly complete, it should offer you a good idea about the types of products
you should avoid if you intend to limit your exposure to BPA.

Cans of Food: Cans of food are often manufactured with a lining that
contains BPA. The purpose of this lining is to protect the food contained
therein from the metal of the can. It also helps to prevent canned food from
developing that off-taste that marks it as, well, canned food.
Plastic Water
Bottles: Water bottles made of polycarbonate plastic often contain BPA. The risk
of BPA leaching from the bottle into your water increases with subjecting your
bottle to extreme temperatures like sending it through the dishwasher or placing
it in the freezer.
Infant Formula: Cans of infant formula are a notorious source
of BPA exposure
. The lining in the cans of both powdered and liquid formula
contains BPA. When the formula is fed to an infant, that infant is ingesting
BPA. Indeed, 1
in 16 babies fed formula are exposed to harmful levels of BPA

Plastic Baby Bottles: Like polycarbonate water bottles for adults,
plastic baby bottles also pose a risk for BPA exposure. The risk might even be
considered greater since these bottles and the formula in them are often heated
which increases the rate at which BPA leaches.
Plastic Food Containers:
Plastic food containers often contain BPA and, like baby bottles, the rate at
which BPA leaches from the container and into your food increases with extreme
temperatures. So microwaving your container is a bad choice as is freezing it.
Other Sources: Without a doubt, food containers comprise our biggest source
of exposure to BPA, but that does not mean it is our only source of BPA
exposure. Indeed, BPA is an ingredient in many other manufactured products such
as CDs and DVDs, baby pacifiers, children’s toys, sports equipment etc.

Limiting Your Exposure to Bisphenol-A (BPA)
While you cannot avoid
exposure to BPA entirely, you can limit your exposure to the chemical by using
appropriate forethought, caution and by purchasing products that are BPA-free.
Glass Jars: As an alternative to canned foods, you can purchase foods in
glass jars or jar food yourself with mason jars. While the
lids on these glass jars may still contain an epoxy with BPA, that is a
considerable amount less than a can that is completely lined with the same epoxy
Non-plastic Water Bottles: Ditch your polycarbonate plastic bottle
and opt for a water bottle that does not contain plastic. Sigg water bottles offer an
excellent alternative to polycarbonate plastic water bottles and are attractive.
They also have a lovely line of kids bottles that could replace a BPA-containing sippy cup.

Breastfeed: Breastfeed your baby and continue to breastfeed your child
until they are ready to wean. By breastfeeding you not only limit your baby’s
exposure to the BPA in the lining of formula cans, but you also limit your
baby’s exposure to the BPA in plastic baby bottles. If you encounter
difficulties breastfeeding look into support from organizations like La Leche League and consider milk sharing or donor
milk programs
that will get the good stuff into your baby’s belly.

Use BPA-free Baby Bottles: If feeding your baby at the breast is not
always possible, and you must use a bottle either occasionally or frequently,
try using glass baby bottles or BPA-free baby bottles. We used glass
baby bottles from Even-flo
for my son. BornFree bottles are BPA-free and present an excellent
alternative to polycarbonate plastic baby bottles.
Non-plastic Food Storage
Containers: My heart will always rest with mason jars since they’re relatively inexpensive and fairly
accessible. I use them for food storage, not just canning.
Other Sources:
When it comes to children’s toys, switch from numerous cheap plastic toys to a
few hand-selected wooden or cloth toys. There’s a handful of
BPA-free pacifiers like those made by Gerber which
are made of latex and those made by Binky which are silicone.


Jack Hampton said...

Great article, Green M. For further reading (such as where to find BPA-free alternatives), here's some bpa-related links:

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