BPA in Food Containers: What You Need to Know
Reduce your exposure to BPA - bisphenol A - now!
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While the FDA dithers and the chemical industry stalls, now's the time for you to act by reducing your and your family's exposure to the toxic chemical bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA. That's because the results of the first major epidemiologic study looking at the potential health effects of BPA in humans, published in the September 17, 2008 issue of the , found a significant relationship between the amount of BPA that people had in their body (as measured by its excretion in their urine) and the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes (type 2 or what's typically called adult onset diabetes) and abnormalities of liver enzymes (suggesting some type of liver damage). And while a study of this type cannot prove causality (that BPA actually caused these problems), it comes on the heels of many previous studies showing the adverse health effects of BPA in experimental animals and cell culture studies that have identified the molecular basis for such injury. Thus the new findings in humans showing an association between BPA levels and several major diseases, are plausible and have a logical scientific basis.
I first wrote about BPA in March of this year when scientists at the CDC reported that they had found traces amounts of the chemical in the urine of 93 percent of Americans they studied! But in April, "Based on our ongoing review, we believe there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects." Yet no one in the JAMA-published study had urine amounts showing higher than recommended exposure levels. This suggests that the currently recommended ADI (accepted daily intake) for bisphenol may be too high.
In an , scientists Frederick vom Saal and John Meyers provided the following scathing explanation for the discrepancy between the science and the FDA's position: "One factor that may be contributingto the refusal of regulatory agencies to take action on BPAin the face of overwhelming evidence of harm from animal studiesreported in peer-reviewed publications by academic and governmentscientists is an aggressive disinformation campaign using techniques("manufactured doubt") first developed by the lead, vinyl, andtobacco industries to challenge the reliability of findingspublished by independent scientists." Bravo! But I guess they won't be applying for research grants from the chemical industry any time soon! [Read the article "What the chemical industry doesn't want you to know" for a detailed accounting of just how brave these scientists have been in taking on the chemical industry.]
To make matters even worse, the new data on diseases associated with BPA was in adults, whereas the consensus among scientists is that the greatest risk for adverse health impact from BPA is believed to be in the developing fetus and infant. That's because of their small size and limited ability to metabolize (and thus eliminate) BPA. During the past 30 years, while there has been increasing exposure to BPA, there has also been a dramatic increase in obesity and type 2 diabetes in children. And studies in rodents have shown that low-dose BPA exposure during fetal and neonatal development increases their rate of growth, advances their puberty and generally disrupts their endocrine function. It's therefore possible that BPA may be seriously harming our children and much more research is needed to answer this question. But as the JAMA editorial notes, "[H]owever, further evidence of harm shouldnot be required for regulatory action to begin the process ofreducing exposure to BPA."
Or for you to reduce your family's exposure to BPA. Because of its widespread use, however, it's probably not possible to completely eliminate your exposure BPA, but here are tips from the Environmental Working Group :
1. Infant formula: the liners of their metal containers contain BPA, which can leach into the formula, especially if it is in a liquid form. Therefore, choose either powdered formula or liquids sold in plastic containers. Or forgo formula in favor of breast feeding whenever feasible.
2. Baby bottles: avoid hard plastic ones (marked #7 or PC for polycarbonate) in favor of glass.
3. Canned foods: this is the predominant source of daily BPA exposure because so many cans are lined with a BPA-containing plastic. Therefore, reduce canned food consumption in favor of fresh and frozen products.
4. Plastic containers: avoid polycarbonate plastic food containers and water bottles, which are hard and clear (and often marked #7 or PC) in favor of plastic containers that are soft, cloudy or opaque, and marked #'s 1, 2 or 4. And don't microwave foods in plastic containers. Use glass or ceramic containers instead.
Do you have other tips for avoiding exposure to BPA? Please leave a comment below and share your information with other readers of this blog. We look forward to hearing from you.
Video: How to reduce BPA exposure
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