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Bisphenol-A (aka BPA): What is it? Where is it? Why do we care?

Posted By Beth Terry On January 13, 2009 @ 12:46 pm In Bisphenol-A (BPA) | 33 Comments

Last week, I posted a little video tour of my kitchen [1] in which I made some remarks about BPA in canned foods. I’ve been receiving all kinds of comments and questions about this issue, so I thought I’d address it directly.

Bisphenol-A, commonly known as BPA, is a component of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It’s been the subject of much recent concern as studies have shown it to be an endocrine disruptor that builds up in our bodies over time. Low doses may cause chronic toxicity in humans, posing the highest risk to pregant women, infants, and young children.

Bisphenol-A only poses a risk if it leaches out of the resin and into our bodies. While much focus has been on polycarbonate water and baby bottles, there is a greater danger from the epoxy linings of canned foods because of the high heats at which they are processed.

BPA in Cans

NEARLY ALL CANNED FOODS CONTAIN BPA. This fact came as a surprise to some Fake Plastic Fish readers. To date, I am only aware of three brands of canned foods that have specifically found alternatives to BPA linings (thanks to FPF reader Christy B.) These brands are:

  1. Eden Organics [2] beans. Note: Eden’s canned tomatoes do contain BPA.
  2. Henry & Lisa’s Natural Seafood [3]
  3. Vital Choice [4]

A December 26, 2008 article from Natural News [5] confirms that as of this writing, these are the only BPA-free brands of canned foods.

There has been some misunderstanding about whether or not Trader Joe’s uses BPA in its cans because of some faulty information provided by its customer service reps. Please check out the discussion in the comments of this Mama Knows Breast blog post [6] for some enlightenment about trusting the statements of customer service reps. Trader Joe’s cans do, in fact, contain BPA.

And what about Whole Foods? They have eliminated BPA-containing bottles from their stores, but Whole Foods’ Statement on BPA [7] does not mention cans. The writer of the Family Health & Safety blog [8] published a response from Whole Foods about a year ago stating that there is BPA in their cans. I personally left a phone message on January 9 with Whole Foods corporate office about BPA lining in 365 Brand cans. (512) 477-5566 x20020. I have not heard back yet. I believe we can safely assume that until Whole Foods publishes otherwise, their 365 Organics canned foods do contain BPA.

What about glass jars?

While buying food in glass jars may be safer than metal cans or plastic containers, there is still a small BPA risk posed by the metal lids. Yes, it’s true. Most metal jar lids contain a BPA lining. Still, the surface to product ratio is minimal compared to cans. My own life is not so completely plastic-free that I won’t buy pasta sauce in glass jars with metal lids. But I just thought I’d mention this because if I don’t, one of you will!

BPA in plastic bottles & containers

BPA is a monomer in polycarbonate plastics, including hard plastic water bottles, baby bottles, the large bottles on the top of water coolers, and the container found on your Cuisinart and other plastic food processor, blender, and juicer containers. (In April 2008, Vita-Mix announced a new BPA-free model [9], but previous models do contain BPA.) This is why I have mostly stopped using my food processor and opt instead to use my blender with glass pitcher. (I do wonder what kind of plastic is in the bottom.) Other possible items made from polycarbonate are hard plastic drinking cups, plates, and bowls.

Brita pitchers, by the way, are not made from polycarbonate and do not contain BPA.

CDs and DVDs are also made from polycarbonate, as are eye glasses and other hard plastic items. However, since we don’t eat many of these, I think we’re safe. They do carry the pollution hazards of all plastics, of course.

Polycarbonate plastic carries the #7 recycling symbol. But not all #7s are polycarbonate, unfortunately. #7 is a catch-all for plastics that don’t fit into the first 6 categories, including bio-based plastics. The suggestion from consumer groups is if you are trying to avoid BPA, it’s best to avoid all hard #7 plastics unless they specifically state they are BPA-free. Still, you won’t know what else could be leaching from them, will you? My personal suggestion is to opt for glass whenever possible.

If you do choose to use polycarbonate, you can minimize your risk in several ways: don’t fill them with hot foods, don’t wash them in the dishwasher, and don’t scratch them or use harsh detergents or abrasives on them. Rough handling breaks down the plastic and can cause the BPA to leach more than it otherwise might have.

BPA in your teeth?

Scary but true. One of my Green Sangha friends shared with me that her daughter was subjected to a dental sealant treatment at school without my friend’s permission. Wow. Times have changed. Most dental sealants do contain BPA [10], as do some composite fillings. Scientists are divided about whether they leach and whether the amount of leaching is harmful. But BPA-free alternatives do exist, and you can ask for them.

I’ve had a few teeth sealed, and they probably do contain BPA. However, I was happy to learn last year that the hard plastic Invisalign retainers [11] I put in my mouth every night do not contain either BPA or phthalate plasticizers, according to the company’s FAQ [11].

Further Information on BPA

Here are a few blogs that focus a lot of attention on the issue of BPA:

Non-Toxic Kids [12]
The Smart Mama [13]
Enviroblog [14]

Hope this helps.

Article printed from My Plastic-free Life: http://myplasticfreelife.com

URL to article: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/01/bisphenol-aka-bpa-what-is-it-where-is/

URLs in this post:

[1] video tour of my kitchen: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/12/fake-plastic-fish-in-movies-or-at-least/

[2] Eden Organics: http://www.edenfoods.com/about/environment.php

[3] Henry & Lisa’s Natural Seafood: http://www.ecofish.com

[4] Vital Choice: http://www.vitalchoice.com/shop/pc/articlesView.asp?id=928

[5] December 26, 2008 article from Natural News: http://www.naturalnews.com/025164.html

[6] discussion in the comments of this Mama Knows Breast blog post: http://mamaknowsbreast.com/2008/04/post_16.php

[7] Whole Foods’ Statement on BPA: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/food-safety/bisphenol

[8] Family Health & Safety blog: http://amomsblog.wordpress.com/2008/02/15/whole-foods-365-private-label-cans-do-contain-some-bpa/

[9] Vita-Mix announced a new BPA-free model: http://www.vitamix.com/household/infocenter/bpa_free.asp

[10] Most dental sealants do contain BPA: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/bisphenol-a-in-teeth.php

[11] Invisalign retainers: http://www.invisalign.com/Pages/Frequently-Asked-Questions.aspx

[12] Non-Toxic Kids: http://non-toxickids.net/search/label/BPA

[13] The Smart Mama: http://www.thesmartmama.com/?s=Bisphenol-a

[14] Enviroblog: http://www.enviroblog.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=bpa

[15] Image: https://plus.google.com/+BethTerry

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