Monday, January 16, 2012

THE ABC's of BPA

WHAT IS BPA AND WHERE IS IT FOUND?

BPA stands for Bisphenol A.  BPA is used to produce clear, shatter-proof,  hard plastics known as polycarbonate. Polycarbonate plastics are used for lots of things, including food storage containers, baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles ( For example, most 5 gallon water jugs are polycarbonate plastic), as well as some toys. 

BPA is used in epoxy resins. Epoxy resins are used as lining in virtually all canned foods and beverages (including baby formula cans) in the United States.   Epoxy resin can also be found inside water supply lines and, ironically, inside many of those cool looking aluminum water bottles we carry around trying to avoid the plastic ones.

BPA is found in most store receipts and some paper products including some foreign currency (but not in Japan who phased-out BPA in 2001).  A new study recently discovered that BPA is present in even more paper items than previously thought, including products most of us touch every day, including toilet paper, paper towels, newspapers and business cards.

Just about every single person in the world (and certainly everyone in the modern world) has traces of BPA in their system...this includes unborn babies!  We are exposed to BPA when it leaches into our food from the can linings, or from polycarbonate plastic, particularly when the plastic is heated, hot food is added, or when harsh detergents are used.  We are also exposed to it by simply touching the thermal receipts so many stores hand us on a daily basis.  


WHY SHOULD I BE CONCERNED?


According to studies (hundreds around the world) , even at very low doses, BPA exposure has been linked to a number of adverse health effects, including breast and prostate cancer, early puberty, infertility, obesity, and behavioral problems,  lowered sperm count, miscarriage, diabetes, and altered immune system.

As an estrogen mimicking chemical, constant BPA exposure through a long period of time will disrupt the endocrine system.  Estrogen has been linked to breast cancer and thus the belief is that if a baby girl is exposed to estrogen from the moment of conception and throughout her childhood and life, this excess estrogen could potentially make her more likely to develop breast cancer.  

Other reasons you should be concerned:

- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  and the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health concur that there is “some concern” about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children.  The FDA has gone as far as to recommend that parents should take “reasonable steps” to reduce their infants’ exposure to BPA.  Many scientists and researchers,  urge complete avoidance of BPA in food and food contact items, especially for fetuses (pregnant mothers) and infants.

- The U.S. Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently acknowledged BPA has a “biological plausibility” for causing breast cancer, adding that “A breast cancer association with bisphenol A (BPA),... is biologically plausible,  but research assessing the risk in humans is lacking. The same is true of pesticides and ingredients in cosmetics and dietary supplements, most of which aren't tested before going to market.

- Another study, released  in the Journal Molecular Endocrinology, adds to a growing body of evidence showing that small amounts of  BPA, “alters mammary gland development and that this may increase the predisposition of the breast (to cancer)”

- Canada became the first jurisdiction in the world to declare bisphenol A toxic in 2010.  In the summer of 2011 China joined the ranks of the European Union, and Canada, in recognizing that BPA is linked to a number of harmful health effects and  banned companies in China from manufacturing, importing or selling baby bottles containing BPA.

Why wont our government move towards a ban of these potentially harmful chemicals or at least from products meant for children, as is the case in Japan, China , Canada and the EU?  Well, in the US, most chemicals are “innocent until proven guilty” so they prefer to wait for hard science to establish the unequivocal link between environment and health before banning a chemical (not to mention how strong and affluent the Chemical industry is.  In February  2008 the FDA revealed to Congress that their pervious stance that BPA levels in baby products were safe were based on  two industry studies sponsored by the American Plastic Council!!!  ).  In the meantime, we as parents and consumers must decide whether we want to take the risk of exposing our children to these potentially toxic chemicals or try to reduce them.

The good news? Even though the US has not taken steps to ban or decrease the use of BPA in the country,  not even in baby bottles or baby canned formula, at a Federal level,  individual states (over 11!)  have passed local legislature banning the chemical in baby and child products.   Major retailers including Wal-Mart and Toys R Us have also phased-out BPA-containing baby bottles.  Some companies like, Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow – have agreed to stop using BPA-based plastic in baby bottles made for the U.S. market.


It's really easy to reduce your exposure and your family's exposure to BPA at home.  Follow this link to read my  Non-Toxic Munchkin's 123's : EASY STEPS TO REDUCE BPA EXPOSURE AT HOME

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