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BPA and Your Health
The Plastic Killer Hiding in Your Food

BPA and Your Health

Don't eat canned foods. Don't drink from plastic bottles. While you're at it, quit handling cash register receipts, don't get a dental filling and never touch a DVD. If you want to avoid the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) those are just a few of the things you need to do.

Maybe I should back up a little and explain what BPA is.

Here's the technical answer. Bisphenol A is an organic compound used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, along with other applications. Simply put, it's a plastic that manufacturers have used for over 50 years to make bottles shatter-proof, line the insides of nearly all food and beverage cans and make hundreds of other consumer products.

In 2008, BPA was linked to dozens of health-related problems including heart disease, obesity, behavioral problems in children and even cancer. The Canadian government went so far as to declare that Bisphenol A, "may be harmful to both human health and the environment."

From the mid-1930s, scientists have known that BPA alters the effects of hormones, such as estrogen, and those effects are bad. To protect the public, various government agencies set limits on how much BPA people could take in daily without suffering ill effects. The current limit in the United States is 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight daily.

Since the limit was set, very little follow-up research was done because it was believed to be relatively harmless in such small amounts. Since then, two things have happened.

  • First, scientists now realize we can experience extremely ill effects from incredibly small chemical exposures.

  • Second, BPA has been put in hundreds of products over the years, giving us dozens of new ways to be exposed to it.

Here's what we know for sure. The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. National Toxicology Program have "some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A..." BPA has also been shown to suppress a hormone that protects people from heart attacks and type 2 diabetes. Those two facts alone are good reasons to avoid BPA whenever possible.

Here's the stuff researchers are still investigating. Higher levels of BPA in your system have been associated with abnormally high levels of some liver enzymes. There is evidence that exposure to BPA may increase obesity. Infants exposed to BPA may be more prone to breast cancer, prostate cancer and ovarian development may be disrupted.

Those are all scary things, but scientists haven't been able to prove that BPA is the cause. Studies so far simply show that when people have increased levels of BPA in their systems those things are more likely to occur. Scientists also haven't been able to demonstrate what level (if any) of BPA exposure may be safe.

As of October 2010, the U.S. Government still considers BPA a safe product for use in can liners and other consumer products, but is conducting research to determine if that should change.

Before you start worrying about it, consider the far greater risks you're exposed to every day.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2006 the first, third and fifth place killers were heart disease, heart attacks and stroke. Combined those diseases claimed the lives of 406,881 people. Second and fourth on the list were bronchus or lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which together killed 260,953 people.

The primary conditions behind those top killers are obesity and smoking. If you want to do something to dramatically improve your health, don't worry about BPA. Your first priority should be to drop excess fat, build some muscle and quit smoking. Nothing else has been shown to help more people live longer or more active lives.

For those of you who want to limit your BPA exposure, here are some simple things you can do.

Steps to Avoid BPA Exposure

The majority of canned foods have BPA in them. Don't support the companies that don't care about your health. Choose foods in BPA-free cans. (A list of companies is below with links to their websites and their "BPA Position.") It's also smart to pick up fresh, frozen, pouched or boxed foods.

Plastic with 3 SymbolPlastic with 7 Symbol


Skip plastic containers with the number 7 or 3 in the recycling symbol. Those are polycarbonate containers and they're likely to contain or leak BPA. Instead, pick glass bottles or plastics without those numbers.

Don't drink soda or beer out of cans. Choose glass bottles or plastic bottles with the number 1 in the recycling symbol mentioned above. Better yet, save some money and do your body a favor by switching to water.

Get rid of aluminum reusable bottles and replace them with stainless steel.

UPDATE: Database of Products with BPA

Food manufacturers and retailers have made announcements in recent years that they would phase out bisphenol A in packaging materials. It's found in thousands of products, primarily in the lining of canned goods.

BPA is an endocrine disrupter and has been linked to developmental problems in fetuses, infants and children. To help consumers figure out what products have it, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) build a searchable database of over 16,000 products that has BPA in their packaging.

Here's what the EWG says about the database:

EWG has created the first easily, searchable database of nearly 16,000 processed food and drinks packaged in materials that may contain the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A, or BPA.

The information on this list came from a food industry website listing thousands of food and beverage items and categories. But the website, which the industry made little effort to publicize, is a chaotic jumble of information - incomplete, inconsistent, poorly organized and hard to use.

Consumers have a right to know what's in their food - especially when it comes to an ingredient, such as BPA, that has been linked to cancer, infertility, brain, nervous system and cardiovascular abnormalities, diabetes, obesity and other serious disorders.
Search for brands and products you use today!"

EWG BPA Database

Click the button above or link below to visit the BPA Database: http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/content/bpa_bombshell_industry_database?x=1

UPDATE: 4/12/2017 - BPA Plastic Replacements May Not Be Any Safer

Here's an excellent video put together by NutritionFacts.org explaining the risks found in BPA-Free Alternative products.

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Updated 12/27/2015
Updated 6/21/2016
Updated 4/12/2017

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  • A BPA Alternative May Have Problems

    With the growing recognition of the hormone mimicking problems of BPA, companies have been introducing products using alternatives. One of those BPA replacements is bisphenol S or BPS. Here's what we know so far.

    A study published in 2015 showed BPS can cause heart rate variability in rats. Another study showed altered brain development and behavior in fish. A direct effect on humans has yet to be established, but it's worrisome that we seem simply to be replacing one problem with another.

    One of the major sources of exposure is cash register receipts. So we recommend that if you work as a cashier and you're concerned, wear protection on the hand that handles receipts such as finger cots.