After research on the chemical compound BPA revealed that it could affect fertility, cancer rates, and even obesity, consumers revolted by demanding safer products. BPA had been incorporated into plastic baby bottles, water bottles, toddler sippy cups, plastic food trays, and even in the epoxy lining of food cans. We wanted it out!
While our legislators dithered on how to regulate BPA, manufacturers saw the marketplace quake and responded by producing a wide variety of plastic products they now boldly tout as “BPA-Free.”But is BPA-free actually any safer than BPA? (Tweet this)
Unfortunately, it appears not.
The good news is, we do have better options.
BPA stands for Bisphenol-A. It’s a chemical compound used to manufacture reusable plastic food and beverage containers, including bottles, cans, cash register receipts and the trays and cartons that take-out and microwaveable food come in.
BPA causes problems for two big reasons.
- It’s what’s called a “hormone disrupter.” It mimics the natural estrogen we make, which can confuse our bodies into going seriously haywire.
- BPA is hard to avoid because it so easily leaches into what we drink and eat. We have a tendency to think plastic is almost indestructible. Not so. When exposed to warm or high temperatures – like those in a microwave, or even the heat exuded from warm or hot food – BPA can migrate out of the plastic and into our drinks or meal.
The same leaching can happen when plastic gets scratched up and wears down. The National Institute for Environmental Health and Safety warns,
“The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. While air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure, BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.”
To be sure, the amount of BPA that we end up consuming at any one time is pretty small. But that’s irrelevant, because the way hormones work, it only takes a teeny-tiny amount to have an impact. And of course over time, those amounts build up to have a greater cumulative effect.
BPA: From Bad to Worse
When companies rushed to get rid of BPA, they didn’t replace their plastic products with something that doesn’t leach at all, like stainless steel or glass. They mostly replaced the “A” in BPA formulations with similar bisphenol compounds that research indicates could be as bad or worse, including BP-F and BP-S. So even though BPA-free products don’t contain the A, they still contain the polyphenols that cause hormonal “estrogenic activity” (EA), asserts Dr. George Bittner, who is also founder of the testing company, CertiChem.
And yes, you guessed it, products that contain BPA-free compounds nevertheless leach. CertiChem found that 70 percent of products that are BPA-free leach EA chemicals into beverages and food.
Meanwhile, another company decided to forgo both BP and A, F, and S by creating a compound called Tritan (tritan copolyester). This plastic is used by Nalgene, Rubbermaid and Tupperware, among others and is free of all the bisphenols. However CertiChem has also found that one of Tritan’s ingredients, triphenyl phosphate, is “just as bad as BPA,” reports Prevention magazine.
(NOTE: Eastman Chemical Company, Tritan’s manufacturer, sued CertiChem’s findings as false and misleading, and won. But Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri biologist who studies endocrine disruptors, says, it is difficult to determine the safety of any plastic product and recommends leach-free materials as much as possible.)
This is all very frustrating. We want to make the best possible choices for our families. And plastic can be so convenient! It’s cheap, it doesn’t shatter, it doesn’t weigh very much, and it’s available everywhere.
Still, given the health trade-offs, it’s pretty clear that avoiding plastic for yourself and your family is a healthy safety measure. (Tweet this)
Want to know what to avoid and what to use instead of BPA products? READ MY NEXT POST…