BPA is a toxic endocrine-disrupting chemical that affects your hormonal system and is thought to be associated with serious diseases including breast cancer, testicular cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity and impaired learning.
What is BPA?
BPA or Bisphenol A is a synthetic chemical which was first synthesized in 1890 and was originally used to increase the growth of poultry and cattle. During the 1930s it was recognized as an artificial estrogen and was subsequently used for estrogen replacement in women. In the 1950s, the chemical industry discovered that BPA could be used to toughen plastics.
These days, BPA is used to produce polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins which are used in a multitude of everyday items such as:-
- Plastic bottles
- Some plastic milk bottles
- Children’s drinking cups
- Babies toys
- Baby pacifiers
- Tinned foods
- Soft drink tins
- Plastic plates and cutlery
- Storage containers
- Microwave meal packaging
- Thermal till receipts
- Dental sealants
Over the past 30 years, the production of BPA has increased by around 500% and is said to be worth around $500,000 per hour to the global economy according to Breast Cancer UK.Â 1
What are the Dangers of BPA?
The dangers of BPA cannot be understated!
When any product that contains BPA is heated up, the BPA chemicals are literally leached into our food or drink and ultimately end up in our bodies. The heating of these materials can occur when microwaving food, when using a dishwasher or even when sitting in the hot sun.
Plates, plastic chopping boards, and similar utensils may also leach BPA when the surfaces are scratched or damaged over time.
But it doesn’t end there, BPA, is also extensively used in many manufacturing industries. As a result, there are approximately 1 million pounds of the substance released into the environment each year polluting our air and ultimately, entering our lungs. 3
One study into the effects of BPA on the male reproductive hormones and semen quality found that of the 308 men tested, BPA was present in 98% of participants. 2
A further study to test levels of BPA in canned soups was performed by the Harvard School of Public Health. 4
The experiment involved two groups of participants. One group was given 12 ounces of vegetable soup from a can. The other group was given freshly made vegetable soup cooked from scratch and using only fresh ingredients.
The results of the test were striking and showed that the group who ate the canned soup had over 1,221% higher levels of BPA in their urine. This was after consuming just 12 ounces of soup!
Another good reason why you should prepare your meals using fresh produce! Try not to eat soup from a can as they most likely contain epoxy resins and BPA!
Many other studies have suggested that Bisphenol A is responsible for many chronic diseases such as:-
- Breast cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Impaired learning and brain development
- Low sperm count2
BPA is an endocrine system disruptor which means that it mimics hormones such as estrogen. Considering our hormones play a major part in almost every function of our bodies, it is easy to see why high levels of BPA are associated with so many serious health issues.
BPA is Especially Harmful to Pregnant Mothers and their Babies
Pregnant women should be even more concerned!
The Harvard School of Public Health performed yet another study which was published in 2011 which indicated that gestational BPA exposure is also a huge concern.
The study collected data from 244 mothers and their children and began during the second trimester of their pregnancy. Up to the age of 3, regular urine samples were taken and at the end of the test, the mothers had to do a survey about their children’s behavioral habits.
They discovered that gestational exposure to BPA was closely associated with behavioral problems at the age of three. The results suggested that girls were affected more than boys and that higher levels of BPA made them more hyperactive, anxious, aggressive and led to poorer emotional control. 5
This is probably because a babies detoxification enzyme system is not fully developed and is therefore unable to fully eliminate these toxins.
Have BPA Products Been Banned?
In 2008 Health Canada concluded that BPA was toxic to human health and to the environment and banned the use of it in baby bottles. In 2012 they reaffirmed their stance and that BPA is not dangerous to adults at low levels.
In January 2011, the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in Europe also prohibited the use of BPA in the manufacture of infant feeding bottles. This was closely followed by the U.S FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2012.
Although this is a positive step, it’s not nearly enough, as this still means that BPA is alive and well in many of the products that we use on a day-to-day basis.
The FDA and EFSA do not deny that BPA exists and that it is found in the human body. They just do not accept that the levels in which it is found are harmful to adults. They have set a TDI (Tolerable Daily Intake) of 0.05 mg per kg of body weight per day, although it’s not clear how they came about such safe numbers.
What About BPA-Free Products?
A number of manufacturers have now removed BPA from their products and replaced it with a similarly toxic chemical called BPS or Bisphenol S.
This has allowed them to label some of their products as BPA Free.
But, what they failed to tell consumers isÂ that Bisphenol A has actually been replaced by an almost identical substance which mimics estrogen in pretty much the same way that Bisphenol A does. New name, same dangers!
A study performed by the University of Texas exposed lab rats to the same lower levels of BPS that humans would be exposed to. They found that like BPA, BPS isÂ an endocrine disruptor whichÂ interferes with how the cells respond to our natural hormones. 10
How to Reduce Your Exposure to BPA and BPS
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say exactly how much BPA/BPS any individual is exposed to on a daily basis. Although we know that containers and bottles can leach it, this can vary widely. Also, when containers are heated for example in a microwave oven, dishwasher or in the hot sun, the level of BPA that is excreted can increase dramatically.
If you want to reduce your overall exposure to BPA and BPS you could practice the following recommendations.
- Avoid canned food as much as possible.
- Do not microwave food in any form of plastic container
- Use BPA/BPS free drinking bottles or use stainless steel
- Use glass or stainless steel containers instead of plastic
- Use glass bottles where possible.
- Make sure any baby bottles are BPA/BPS free.
- Don’t take receipts.
- Eat and cook with fresh produce as much as possible
Containers that use BPA sometimes have the number 7 on the bottom or state that they are made using polycarbonate. This will make them more identifiable. Unfortunately, it is not a requirement, so you cannot be 100% sure.
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