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 BPA in Our Foods: A Health Risk?

                        Plastic packaging has become an inseparable part of our
                        food supply. Many common items such as canned foods,
                        water bottles, baby bottles, sippy cups, and even dental
                        sealants, are produced with Bisphenol A (BPA), an
                        industrial chemical whose effect on health has raised
                        While some consumers avoid using plastic containers and
                        plastic wrap in microwaves and change over to glass
                        storing and cooking wear, others believe that synthetic
                        packaging is safe. Research supports both sides of the
                        argument. Some sources, such as Bisphenol-A.org, which
                        represents the American Chemistry Council,
                        PlasticsEurope, and the Japan Chemical Industry
                        Association, indicate that “the products manufactured
                        from bisphenol A pose no known risks to human health
                        when used for their intended purposes.”1 Others state
                        that even low-level exposure to BPA can affect human
                        health from interfering with child birth to causing
                        Why are the potential problems with BPA?
                        According to Bisphenol-A.org, BPA exhibits toxic effects
                        only at very high temperatures, and the potential human
                        exposure from use of everyday products is 400 times less
                        than the EPA-established safe level of 0.05 milligrams
                        per kilogram of body weight per day.3 But the National
                        Toxicology Program (NTP) of the National Institutes of
                        Health (NIH) recently voiced its concern about the
                        leaching of BPA into the food supply under “typical
                        conditions of use,” such as in canned foods, baby
                        bottles, plastic-bottled beverages, adding that “the
                        possibility that bisphenol A may alter human development
                        cannot be dismissed.” In fact, an April 2008 report,
                        currently open for public comment, stated that “The NTP
                        concurs with the conclusion…that there is some concern
                        for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants,
                        and children at current human exposures. The NTP also
                        has some concern for bisphenol A exposure in these
                        populations based on effects in the prostate gland,
                        mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in
                        One study has found BPA to work as an endocrine
                        disrupter in the body,5 with exposure to it from fetal
                        to young age potentially affecting mammary gland
                        development, as well as causing lesions in the mammary
                        and prostate gland later in life. Rodent studies point
                        out the potential for early exposure to lead to cancer
                        and to affect on brain structure, function and
                        The FDA Commissioner recently established a BPA Task
                        Force to review new literature regarding the impact and
                        safety of the chemical and to take appropriate
                        regulatory action if the current levels of BPA are found
                        to be unsafe.7,8  The general consensus is that more
                        objective research is needed in order to determine the
                        true effect of BPA on our long-term health, but recent
                        research implies that we cannot deny the possibility
                        that BPA may cause serious consequences to human health,
                        even under “normal” conditions of use.
                        Is my food packaged with BPA?
                        Currently there is no requirement for food packaging
                        manufacturers to disclose the chemicals used in the
                        development of their products. However, if your products
                        are made of polycarbonate (such as hard plastic water
                        bottles), or use an epoxy resin (such as canned foods),
                        you can assume that Bisphenol A is a part of the
                        Some in the food industry are working to develop
                        affordable BPA-free alternatives to line cans and store
                        foods, but at this time, most cans are manufactured with
                        the BPA epoxy. One company, Eden Foods, has worked to
                        develop a BPA-free oleoresinous (mix of oil and plant
                        resin) c-enamel lining in their canned beans and bean
                        products. It sells canned tomato products in BPA
                        epoxy-containing cans, however, stating that the acidity
                        of tomatoes is too strong for the natural resin they use
                        with their beans. (For more information, visit
                        A 2007 report by Environment California and a 2008
                        report by the Work Group for Safe Markets, showed that
                        five popular brands of polycarbonate baby bottles leach
                        BPA at levels found to cause harm in numerous animal
                        studies, with more BPA leaching from older bottles and
                        heated bottles.9,10 Health Canada, the government body
                        overseeing public health and safety in Canada, is
                        considering a ban on the import, sale and advertising of
                        BPA-containing baby bottles, with the Minister of Health
                        stating that “Early development is sensitive to the
                        effects of Bisphenol-A.”11 Companies such as Nalgene are
                        producing BPA-free water bottles and even phasing out
                        their BPA-containing outdoor line, and Walmart announced
                        they will stop selling BPA-containing baby bottles.12 
                        How can I avoid BPA?
                        While the safety or danger of BPA-containing products
                        remains unproven, some choose to minimize exposure to
                        BPA. Here are a few suggestions:
                        ·        Cook food from scratch, using fresh produce,
                        dry beans, and natural meats. For convenience, cook
                        large quantities and freeze leftovers in Pyrex
                        (www.pyrexware.com) glassware containers for later use.
                        ·        Avoid microwaving, cooking and storing foods in
                        plastic containers. Instead, reuse pasta sauce jars, or
                        purchase Pyrex containers.
                        ·        Purchase foods in glass or standing cardboard
                        containers (tetra pak or SIG Combibloc). In addition to
                        containing no BPAs, these can often be recycled.
                        ·        Purchase drinking water, juice or tea in a
                        glass jar. Clean the bottle frequently and reuse. If you
                        are concerned about dropping the bottle, consider
                        purchasing a neoprene or other material sleeve to slip
                        over your bottle for protection.
                        ·        For more durable bottles, consider stainless
                        steel options such as Kleen Kanteen
                        (www.kleankanteen.com/). Many select the SIGG aluminum
                        water bottle (www.mysigg.com) with a resin coating, but
                        the composition of their coating is proprietary, and may
                        contain BPA.
                        ·        Avoid foods contained in plastics #7 (indicated
                        with a “PC” (polycarbonate) or the #7 recycling label
                        shown below. Most #7 plastics contain polycarbonate.
                        Instead, look for plastics #1, #2, and #4, which do not
                        contain BPA.
                        ·        Medela brand breast pumps
                        (www.medelabreastfeedingus.com/) and Born Free baby
                        bottles and products (www.newbornfree.com) are labeled
                        as BPA-free. (Visit the Environmental Working Group Web
                        site to download their guides on Baby Safe Bottles and
                        Formula and Tips to Avoid BPA Exposure
                        ·        Amazon.com maintains a list of BPA-free
                        products; however, shop with caution. These products are
                        “tagged” BPA-free by other shoppers and are not
                        researched to ensure the accuracy of these claims.
                        By Cathy Burke, RYT
                        Director of Education