BPA has been in the news a lot lately. The FDA recently banned the use of BPA containing plastics for use in baby bottles and sippy cups and since then there have been news stories about it everywhere. I’m not one to panic about environmental toxins (after all, stress is one of the worst things for your health!) but it is important to stay informed so we can make the best choices for ourselves and our families. Here are some questions I had and the answers I found. I hope you find them useful.
What is BPA?
BPA is short for Bisphenol-A, a chemical found in polycarbonate plastic, the hard clear plastic widely used in food and beverage containers like portable water bottles and in the lining of most canned goods including soups and sodas. It can leak into food and beverages stored in these containers, especially when they are acidic, high in fat or subjected to high heat such as in the dish washer or microwave. It’s been used since the 60’s and a study of over 2000 people in the U.S. found that over 90% had traces of BPA in their urine.
Why should I be concerned?
Research has shown that in certain amounts BPA can act as an endocrine disruptor by mimicking the human hormone estrogen. In 2008 the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study in which higher BPA levels were associated with higher incidences of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and abnormal levels of certain liver enzymes. There is a long list of studies concluding there is at least some cause for concern about the association of high BPA levels to many major health issues from neurological disorders and cancer to reproductive issues and obesity.
What is the FDA’s position?
In 2008 the FDA declared BPA safe but began expressing some concern in 2010 stating in it’s report on BPA:
“on the basis of results from recent studies… The National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children…FDA is carrying out in-depth studies to answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about the risks of BPA. In the interim FDA is taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply. These steps include: *supporting the industry’s actions to stop producing BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups for the U.S. market *facilitating the development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans; and supporting efforts to replace BPA or minimize BPA levels in other food can linings. *FDA is supporting a shift to a more robust regulatory framework for oversight of BPA. *FDA is seeking further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA. *FDA is also supporting recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services for infant feeding and food preparation to reduce exposure to BPA.”
So you can see there is “support” by the FDA to move away from products containing BPA but the only change in regulation has been the ban of BPA in baby bottles and toddlers sippy cups.
What can I do to avoid BPA?
1. Avoid Canned Goods Containing BPA In a study by Harvard subjects who ate one serving of canned soup a day for 2 weeks had a more than 1200% increase in their BPA levels. Here are some some good alternatives…
- Make Your Own Nothing beats homemade tomato sauce and soup. Use fresh veggies instead of canned whenever possible. Beans require a little planning but just soak overnight and boil for an hour and you’re good to go. When homemade isn’t an option try…
- 2 Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes This brand owned by General Mills has been using BPA free cans since 2011. Look for cans with use by dates of 2013 or later. Available at Whole Foods, some supermarkets and online
- Pomi Tomatoes Pomi tomatoes are packed in a BPA free tetra pack. They are reportedly pesticide free though not certified organic. Available at most major supermarkets.
- Eden Organic Canned Beans, Chili and Rice- Eden has been using BPA free can liners for their beans since 1999. Available at Whole Foods and online.
- Trader Joe’s Brand Trader Joe’s has made this statement “all Tetra Pak is BPA-free. The same goes for all of the plastics we use (i.e., our plastic water bottles, cookie tubs, etc.) All of our canned fish, chicken, and beef are now in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: sardines, crab, Cherrystone clams, & oysters. All of our canned fruits and vegetables (including but not limited to tomatoes, beans, and the organic canned pumpkin, which is a seasonal item) are in BPA-free cans EXCEPT: mandarins, hatch chilies, artichokes, organic baked beans. Coconut Milk is also in a BPA-free can. All pet food is in BPA-free cans.”
- Soups and Sauces in Glass Jars Just reuse or recycle after.
2. Use Stainless Steel Water Bottles They’re better for your body and better for the environment! Some metal water bottles have BPA containing plastic liners so make sure it’s liner free.
4. Do Not Heat Items in Plastic Containers or put Plastic in the Dishwasher or use Plastic Containers for Hot Liquids.
How Can I Make a Difference?
The first thing I came up with is to share this information to help others stay informed, hence this blogpost. Now all you have to do is hit the share buttons below. One of the best ways consumers can advocate for change is by using their dollars to support companies who do not use BPA in their packaging. As awareness grows so will the demand for BPA-free products and, as we learned in high school economics class, as demand grows you can be sure the supply will also. That would be good news for all of us! Here’s to our health! Cheers, Jacq