In recent years, you have probably seen the headlines about bisphenol A (BPA) and the controversies surrounding it. A lot of information has come out about this chemical and how exposure to it can affect our health. But, what exactly is BPA? Should we really be worried about it? Let’s explore these topics and how to limit your exposure.
What is Bisphenol A?
BPA is an industrial chemical that is used to make certain plastics and resins. It has been used commercially since the 1960s.
BPA is found in certain polycarbonates and epoxy resins. BPA-based plastics are clear and tough and made into a variety of goods such as plastic containers that store food, water bottles, sports equipment, CDs, and DVDs. BPA is also found in epoxy resins that coat the inside of metal products such as food cans and water supply lines.
It is well-known that small, measurable amounts of food packaging materials, including BPA, seep into food and are thus consumed.
Most of us have BPA in our bodies right now. BPA can also be found in the environment in air, dust, and water. Dental sealants can contain BPA.
Most of us have BPA in our bodies right now.
It was around the year of 2008 when the possible health risks of BPA started to come to light. This prompted a lot of fear, especially from parents of young children as many products for babies and children contained BPA.
Now, due to the controversy, the major companies in the United States who make baby bottles and sippy cups have stopped using BPA in their products. Additionally, the manufacturers of canned baby formula have stopped using BPA.
Risks of BPA
What does BPA do to us? There are many research studies that demonstrate harmful health effects from BPA. However, these are limited since they are largely animal studies. It is still not well known to what extent BPA affects humans.
Here are some areas of concern regarding BPA exposure:
- Endocrine disruptor. BPA is thought to be an endocrine disruptor, which is a substance that mimics hormones, such as estrogen, in the body and leads to potential problems such as infertility, breast cancer, and other reproductive problems. Other examples of endocrine disruptors include dioxin, phthalates, perchlorate, certain pesticides, lead, and mercury. Many skin, hair, and body products contain endocrine disruptors in their ingredient lists.
- Heart problems. Rat studies demonstrated a link between BPA exposure and abnormal heart function resulting in slowed heart rate and heart rate variability. There is also a question as to whether or not BPA is linked to high blood pressure.
- Brain function. Studies performed on baby rats suggest that exposure to BPA disturbs neurodevelopment and behavior later in life.
- Obesity. Research suggests that prenatal exposure to BPA has an effect on long-term body weight development by altering fat cells.
These effects are especially concerning for babies and children since their bodies are still developing and are less efficient at clearing substances from their system.
BPA in your water
You might be wondering if BPA is present in your water supply and the water bottles you drink from. The answer is yes, it is possible.
Data suggests that the fraction of drinking water measurements of BPA reported as less than the detection limit is high (at least 95 percent) in North America. Also, human biomonitoring data indicate that ingestion of drinking water represents less than 2.8 percent of the total human ingestion of BPA. Therefore, BPA in drinking water represents a minor component of overall human exposure.
It has been shown that BPA can leach into water from the plastic bottles the water is stored in. Research has demonstrated that considerable amounts of BPA leached from polycarbonate bottles within the first 24 hours of storage. Additionally, it was observed that significantly higher levels of BPA were found in unfiltered taps when compared with taps with filtration systems.
Research has demonstrated that considerable amounts of BPA leached from polycarbonate bottles within the first 24 hours of storage.
What does the FDA say?
The FDA’s current perspective is that BPA exposure occurring in foods is low enough to not cause harm in humans. However, they continue to review available evidence on an ongoing basis. But for now, their recommendations have not changed.
Note that the decision not to use BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and packaging for infant formula was not a decision based on safety but, according to the FDA, is “based on the fact that the regulatory authorization is no longer necessary for the specific use of the food additive because that use has been permanently and completely abandoned.”
Of note, the European Union and Canada have banned BPA from use in baby bottles. However, the European Food Safety Authority maintains their stance that the known level of exposure to BPA is safe for humans.
The United States government is funding new research into the risks of BPA so the recommendations could change in the coming years.
How to limit exposure
Overall, the available data are conflicting as to whether or not BPA should be avoided.
However, if you are concerned, there are ways to decrease yours and your family’s exposure to BPA:
With all of the potential health risks, BPA has become a scary thing. While there is no definitive evidence that it is bad for humans, it’s not a bad idea to avoid BPA if you can. It’s not possible to eliminate it completely, but there are steps you can take to reduce exposure.
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