This chemical attracted attention last year when Nalgene plastic bottles were taken off the shelves in Canada. The chemical is called bisphenol A or BPA and it is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
The study that triggered the controversy showed that significant amounts of BPA are leaching from hard plastic bottles such as Nalgene. Slowly, more stories came out. BPA is found not only Nalgene bottles but in other plastic products as well, such as plastic food packaging, plastic-lined cans, plastic dental braces, and take note – plastic baby bottles.
Health authorities were at first sceptical and claimed that the amount of BPA that leaches from the plastic bottles are so low that they cannot have any adverse effects on health. However, one study detected BPA in the urine of 92.6% of 2,517 participants aged 6 years old and older. Still, consumer groups continued to raise their concerns such as this warning from Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
In May this year, “leaders of the Committee on Energy and Commerce threatened to subpoena the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for records the agency used in determining that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) was safe for use in making infant formula liners and other products intended for infants and children“, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
Earlier this month, a report by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health finally acknowledged that there are certain health “concerns” linked to BPA exposure.
So what does BPA do?
- According to this study published in Toxicology Letters, BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that “mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons.”
- According to the NTP report dated September 3, 2008, BPA exposure may be linked to prostate and brain cancer, behavioral problems in fetuses, infants and children, early onset of puberty in young girls, and reproductive disorders in workers working with BPA.
- According to another article published this week in JAMA, high BPA levels may be linked to increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
So how can we protect ourselves from BPA? The CSPI gives the following recommendations:
- Buy canned goods only if you are sure the cans linings are BPA-free.
- Shift to frozen rather than canned food.
- Drink soda from non-reusable, easily recyclable BPA-free polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.
- For kids, avoid using plastic formula bottles and sippy cups with polycarbonate plastic.
- Shift to food products packed in aseptic cardboard boxes.
- Avoid using hard plastics with food at home. Use glass and porcelain instead.