Friday, February 14, 2014

What is BPA and Why Should We Avoid It?

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What is BPA?  BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical found in many items used every day in the United States.  When ingested, the chemical actually mimics estrogen in the body.  It isn't something you would think you ingest but due to the items it is used in, there is a big possibility that you come in contact with it daily.

A number of products contain BPA including sandwich and freezer bags, water bottles, baby bottles, food containers, canned foods, thermal papers like store receipts, plastic wrap, dental sealants, plastic trays in microwavable meals, plastic coffee makers (use a French press or ceramic drip instead), disposable paper cups (in the lining), soda cans, and even in water supply pipes.  

Many of these, especially coffee makers and plastic freezer bags, come into contact with food or drinks that we ingest all the time and also are exposed to extreme heat or cold.  The temperature affects the plastic items, causing BPA to leach into the food or drink contained.  Water bottles you buy at the store are also a factor.  You may not leave it in your hot car then drink out of it later, but during shipping it could have been sent in a hot truck to the store.  It may have already leached BPA into the water.

Instead of using plastic, use glass food containers and stainless steel water bottles that you fill with your own filtered tap water.  Plastics that often contain BPA are #3 and #7.  You can find out these numbers on the bottom of the item usually.  It is the number inside the recycling triangle.  If you must use plastic items, stick to #2, #4, and #5 instead.

Even buying items labeled BPA free could be bad for you.  "BPA free" labeled cans of food can contain BPS (another estrogen mimicking chemical) or PET film, which may contain DEHA.  If you can't breastfeed and opt for formula for your baby, use powdered as BPA leaches more into liquid.  Use parchment paper instead of plastic wrap or plastic bags to put food in the freezer.

Choose natural materials for baby toys and pacifiers.  Wood and cloth toys are excellent alternatives to plastics. Wash hands after touching store receipts.  Do not use alcohol based hand sanitizer as it is said to increase BPA absorption.  Do not let the receipts roll around in your purse either.  You could actually tell them you do not want a receipt so that you do not have to touch it at all.

BPA is eliminated from the body relatively quickly but continuous exposure can cause many issues.  The National Institutes of Health states that a CDC study conducted in 2003-2004 found that 93% of Americans have BPA in their bodies!  Obviously we are being exposed to BPA in so many places!  Here are some risks of BPA exposure:

Studies have shown links between BPA and obesity in children because it makes the fat cells bigger.

Exposure to BPA has been shown to increase cancer risk.

The National Toxicology Program has shown concern over BPA, stating that it may affect brain development in babies and children, miscarriage of a pregnancy, and birth defects.

The National Institutes of Health says that studies in animals has shown neonatal exposure to BPA leads to a polycystic ovary-like syndrome (PCOS) in adulthood.

Research has also shown that high levels of BPA exposure is linked to behavior problems in girls, impotence in men, and increased risk of heart disease.

As stated by Scientific American, "First synthesized in 1891, bisphenol A came into use as a synthetic estrogen in the 1930s. Later, chemists discovered that, combined with phosgene (used during World War I as a toxic gas) and other compounds, BPA yielded the clear, polycarbonate plastic of shatter-resistant headlights, eyeglass lenses, DVDs and baby bottles."

Obviously these scientists in 1891 did not know that it would be used in so many things that we come into contact with everyday, and surely they did not know that it would leach into our foods and be ingested.  With the current studies we have, I don't know why it isn't just outlawed already.  Until the FDA takes action, we must protect ourselves by avoiding these products.

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