If you’re like me, then when you hear the latest ‘green’, ‘safety’ or ‘nutritional’ trend, you just kind of go with it until you get five minutes of peace to actually look it up. That’s what I did when I first started hearing about Bisphenol A (which I’m still not sure how to pronounce), otherwise known as BPA. I heard it was bad for you, and they came out with all the cool new bottles that boasted “BPA-free!” so I just went along with it. I even got my hubby a super cool reusable water bottle with a soft tip (kind of like a sippy cup J) and a mister discretely built into the top to cool him off at the golf course. But aside from all the groovy new goods, what is BPA and why is it so terrible?
BPA is a chemical made into products such as flame-retardants, epoxy resins ( used in some children’s dental fillings), fungicides, pesticides (currently banned in the US) and polycarbonate plastics- one of the most common everyday uses. Polycarbonate plastic is what water bottles, baby bottles, some eating utensils, canned food and formula linings, plastic wrap and food storage containers, as well as many other consumer products, are primarily made of. Because it makes plastic more durable, and therefore easier to process until an attractive end product results, it has been the material of choice for generations. It’s also cheaper, which doesn’t hurt it’s popularity in the industry, either. Using alternative methods makes it more expensive to produce an attractive product, which in turn makes BPA-free plastic goods more expensive, in addition to being less durable.
Despite it’s durability during processing, BPA erodes over time, allowing it to leach out into the water or food that it holds. It also deteriorates when it is heated or chilled, making it an even bigger risk for infants and toddlers using BPA laden bottles and sippy cups. Some of the risks associated with BPA include chromosomal abnormalities, reproductive issues- including low sperm count, infertility, miscarriage, early puberty and early menopause- decreased brain function, disruption of the endocrine system, male feminization, prostrate problems, cancer and insulin resistance. It also acts like estrogen in the human body, which can wreak havoc, especially in men. While the FDA contends that BPA is safe (based largely on industry-sponsored studies….), it has garnered enough concern from the city of San Francisco to ban the sale of baby bottles made with BPA, and for the Canada Department of Health to demand more research be done. As with most hot button public issues, there are plenty of parties on both sides of the fence as to whether or not BPA is truly safe. The jury is still out on whether BPA is “officially” harmful to humans in the amounts we encounter on a regular basis. The US National Toxicity Program has stated that after exhaustive studies, they find no real harm in people, although lab animals involved in the research weren’t so lucky- the offspring of females exposed to the chemical while pregnant were especially susceptible to harm. Personally, if it’s bad for the mice, I don’t want to try it out on my own kid.
So what’s a mom to do? Make sure none of your products have the #7 recyclable symbol on the bottom, and use items with a #1 or #2 only once. Fortunately, BPA-free merchandise is on the rise, and it’s becoming easier to find the goods we want without scouring the globe. Our Basic Foods carries a variety of safe reusable drinking bottles, and HEB on Dowlen now has glass baby bottles with removable silicone grips that are super cute. Glad and SC Johnson don’t use BPA in any of their companies’ food-related products. As for avoiding it in other forms, use glass or ceramic vessels to reheat food in the microwave, and replace cling warp with wax paper. Of course, you can find anything you need online as well. I love the steel sippy cups at www.bpafreekids.com and the hand made ceramic bowls and plates on Etsy.
While there is yet to be an official snubbing from the FDA, I’d prefer to err on the side of caution when it comes to BPA. And that bottle that mists icy water on my face when there’s 100 % humidity is pretty awesome.
Want to do a little research of your own? Check out www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/oncompounds/bisphenola/bpauses.htm, where you’ll find the results of several BPA studies or the CDC‘s report at http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/pdf/factsheet_bisphenol.pdf. You can also search the FDA’s or the National Toxicity Program’s websites.