You may have heard about something called “BPA” or Bisphenol A. BPA is a common chemical, used for more than 40 years, to harden plastics. It can be found in medical devices, dental sealants, water bottles, the lining of canned foods and drinks, and many other products. According to WebMD, “More than 90% of us have BPA in our bodies right now. We get most of it by eating foods that have been in containers made with BPA. It’s also possible to pick up BPA through air, dust, and water.” And according to the American Chemistry Council, that’s okay because BPA is safe ingredient, helping “make our lives safer and more convenient.”
The reality is that determining the safety or danger in BPA is not only confusing, but it’s difficult to determine which items we buy are BPA-free or not. And a short bit of time on Google reveals that even if an item is BPA-free, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s safe. Because there are plenty of other chemicals used in plastic production which may or may not be safe for human consumption. So what should a mom or dad do when they want to keep their food and environment as safe as possible for their children? It’s a good question.
The Mayo Clinic has a primer for you:
Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA or into your body when you handle products made with BPA. BPA remains controversial, and research studies are continuing. The American Chemistry Council, an association that represents plastics manufacturers, contends that BPA poses no risk to human health.
But the National Toxicology Program at the Department of Health and Human Services says it has “some concern” about the possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. This level of concern is midway on its five-level scale, which ranges from serious to negligible. The Food and Drug Administration now shares this level of concern and is taking steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply by finding alternatives to BPA in food containers.
In the meantime, if you’re concerned about BPA, you can take steps to minimize your exposure by:
Seeking out BPA-free products. This may not always be easy to do, of course. Some manufacturers label their products as BPA-free. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that most aluminum cans or bottles have linings that contain BPA, while steel bottles or cans don’t. Polycarbonate plastic is generally hard, clear, lightweight plastic. It often has the No. 7 recycling symbol on the bottom.
Microwave cautiously. The National Toxicology Program advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics, although the American Chemistry Council says this is safe. The plastics can break down over time, possibly causing BPA to leach into food.
Wash safely. The National Toxicology Program advises against washing polycarbonate plastics in the dishwasher using harsh detergents, although the American Chemistry Council says this is safe.
Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.
Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since many cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.
It’s important for every family to learn what they can, making the most educated choices, with the information available. Of course the reduction of plastic is a great step in reducing the amount of overall waste and moving away from the “single use” items will also eliminate a great deal of plastics from your day. Let us know if you’re worried about BPA in plastics and what you’re doing to cut back.