Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in the making of some types of plastics. It was invented in 1891 by chemists in a laboratory. In the 1940’s and 50’s BPA began to be a component of many everyday items, such as water coolers, baby bottles, plastic dishes, bicycle helmets, even some tooth fillings. Eventually, BPA use became so wide spread that it can now be found lining almost every canned food in the US. Some cash register receipts even contain BPA.
The History and Dangers of BPA
In the 1930’s scientists realized that BPA had estrogenic properties, and it was actually used as an artificial estrogen medically for a while. So, rumors of potential toxicity should come as a surprise to no one. After all, it was used medicinally before it found its way into everyday items.
In 1976 when Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act , BPA was ‘grandfathered’ in. That is, it was presumed to be safe with absolutely no testing to prove that it was, simply
because it had been in use before the Act was passed.
Several independent studies have raised red flags about the use of BPA. It has been suspected of being an endocrine disruptor and a carcinogin, among other things. The FDA, on the other hand, has assured the public many times of the safety of BPA, and only recently has condoned the voluntary removal of the substance in some items. Several U.S. states have independently banned BPA in baby items.
The FDA did conduct testing of their own after some countries, such as Canada, banned BPA. However, as the Washington Post reported, the companies hired to conduct the studies were affiliated with manufacturers of BPA, so many feel that those studies are flawed. Not surprisingly, those two studies showed BPA to be safe.
Studies on BPA
Researchers from Tufts University found that mice exposed to low levels of BPA had behavior that appeared similar to ADHD. The mice repeatedly did flips and circled their cage, sometimes for hours at a time.
A study that was reported in Environ. Health Perspectives also found adverse effects associated with BPA. In this particular study nursing rats were given oral doses of BPA. The result was that the baby rats had a higher percentage of developing breast cancer.
Other animal studies have shown connections between BPA and diabetes, altered liver function, heart disease, altered brain function, low quality eggs, reproductive problems in males and females, as well as lack of maternal behavior.
Alternatives to BPA
In an effort to lower exposure to BPA, one should buy fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as much as possible. This reduces BPA exposure from the lining of canned foods.
Some canned foods are in BPA free cans, but they are rare. One company that consistently uses BPA free cans is Eden Organics. Also, Trader Joe’s canned corn, beans, poultry, and beef are said to be in BPA free cans.
Another way to ensure food is not contaminated is to buy in glass jars when possible. A simply made spaghetti sauce can replace canned tomato sauce. Tomato sauce can also be made at home and canned or frozen. If buying food items in plastic containers, the numbers 3 and 7 on the bottom should be avoided, as they may contain BPA.
How to Fight Back
Consumers should avoid BPA when possible. Glass and stainless steel dishes should be used instead of plastic ones. Plastics with the numbers 3 or 7 on the bottom should be avoided. Companies such as Eden Organics should be thanked for making the choice to avoid BPA, and consumers should buy their products.
Consumers can also make a difference by writing companies and requesting BPA free packaging, signing petitions against BPA, and contacting officials concerning the use of BPA. By far, the biggest impact will probably be made with the pocketbook, by avoiding companies that use BPA, and patronizing those who don’t.