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BPA Is Everywhere, But How Harmful Is it?

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Remember the fuss over BPA in 2012?  First the FDA said our exposure wasn’t great enough to cause significant concerns. That was March 2012.  Three months later it issued a ban on the use of BPA in baby bottles and Sippy cups, stating that children and infants had been identified as the most susceptible to the chemical.

BPA, Bisphenol A, is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It’s been used since the 1960’s. These hard, clear plastics are often found in containers that store food and beverages, such as some water bottles. The resins are also used to protect foods from microbial and other contamination by coating the inside of metal products, such as some food cans. (FDA) Small amounts of BPA can migrate into the food or beverages stored in containers made with BPA. There is a growing body of research indicating that BPA exposure is linked to multiple health problems, including reproductive disorders, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

This is appears to be one of those cases of a wonder product — it made life easier and continues to be widely used — turning out to be unsafe. The long-term effects of BPA may be damaging our bodies, but the degree of damage is not currently known.  The research is ongoing. BPA is pervasive – it is still used in cans, bottles and other food storage containers. It is also used in compact discs, medical devices, dental sealants, cash register and ATM receipts. It is all around us.

The FDA consumer update in March 2012 downplayed the dangers of BPA, yet in 2009 it was already collaborating with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to examine “long-term health outcomes associated with developmental exposure to BPA. Research from this effort will be pouring out over the next few years. But the studies already emerging continue to add to the evidence that the safety of BPA is highly uncertain.”

There is no solid evidence yet and no advice on how to deal with the presence of BPA in our everyday lives. Do we wear gloves when handling CDs? What about products used on our teeth, or the medical devices that are used on and in our bodies? Many of us handle ATM receipts on a frequent basis, how dangerous is that?

We know there is evidence of damage to the human body from contact with BPA. What we do not know is how extensive or whether it is passed along genetically. And, we do not know exactly how many products in our homes contain BPA. We are seemingly presented with technological advances daily that make our lives easier and, ostensibly, safer. . . at least that is what we think.

For now, here are a few simple recommendations from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for reducing exposure to BPA.

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures.
  • Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
  • Reduce your use of canned foods.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free.

 

2 Comments

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    This article begins by giving the false impressionat that the FDA has changed its position on BPA’s safety because it removed the long-standing approval for the use of polycarbonate in baby bottles and other infant feeding articles. FDA’s action was not based on safety, but on a demonstration that the industry had abandoned these uses of polycarbonate. This fact is clearly stated in the documents announcing and completing FDA’s action.
    BPA-based epoxy coatings are critical in maintaining the sterility of food products. The coating allows for high-temperature sterilization of the food product when packaged and provides protection from defects forming in the container that would allow bacteria and microorganisms to enter. According to FDA records, there has not been an incidence of foodborne illness resulting from a failure of metal packaging in more than 38 years.

    Public health authorities such as the FDA, the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada and national authorities in several European and Asian countries have all reviewed the safety of BPA. All of these comprehensive reviews conclude that BPA is safe in food contact uses and all are publicly available for those who are looking for objective science.

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    A meta-analysis of 93 studies published December 2013 in Food and Chemical Toxicology concludes:

    “Our results show limited or no potential for estrogenicity in humans, and question reports of measurable BPA in human serum.”