Bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, is a chemical present in polycarbonate plastics used to make hard, reusable plastic products such as baby bottles. It is also present in food cans, thermal paper (receipts etc), some water bottles, various tableware for children and in many forms of food packaging. It has been banned in Canada following widespread concerns about BPA’s effect on human health, and many companies have removed it from their products or are now offering a BPA-free alternative.
In January 2010, the FDA admitted that BPA poses a danger to human health, but that it is impossible for them to regulate it due to how it is classified. This is somewhat of a joke to me — if it poses a clear danger to human health, why not lobby for reclassification so it can be regulated more strictly?
There have been a number of studies carried out on the effect of BPA. BPA mimics oestrogen in the body, and has been reported to have caused behavioural changes and certain types of cancers in tests.
One of the most poignant studies I have come across in my research into this subject is one carried out by Palanza, P, KL Howdeshell, S Parmigiani and FS vom Saal in 2002 Exposures to BPA at just 1/5th of the level considered safe caused marked changes to the maternal behaviour of female mice. The mice spent less time nursing, more time resting away from their babies and more time in general away from the nest.
Other studies have shown links between exposure to BPA in utero with changes in mammary tissue, prostate tissue and brain development. You only have to do a quick search online to find hundreds of studies that show the negative impact of BPA on health.
The best thing you can do in order to avoid BPA ingestion is to become aware of the multitude of products that it is present in, and avoiding them. When buying plasticware for your home, check that it is NOT polycarbonate plastic, particularly #7 and #3. Avoid industrialised canned foods, and any other prepackaged foods that you know have BPA in the packaging. Polypropylene, identifiable by the symbol PP and #5, is generally considered to be safe to use. It is certainly the most stable of all of the plastics available. Check all of your child’s tableware, bottles and cups — if in doubt, throw it out! If you are pregnant or nursing, take extra special care to avoid any potential BPA source.
BPA is present in the water supply (it leaches from landfill into water sources) and many people find their water pipes are made from PVC #3 which contains BPA, so it is a very good idea to switch to bottled water. 93% of Americans tested were found to have BPA in their bodies. It is incredibly hard to avoid but with a chemical this toxic, it is worth doing everything you can to limit your intake and that of your family’s — especially your children. The rise in everyday use of plastics could well be responsible for the increase in children being diagnosed with behavioural issues.
This issue is incredibly worrying; keep informed, spread the word and make sure your friends and family are aware of the dangers of this highly toxic chemical.