What is BPA?

Can I just start off by saying I feel so bad for first time parents?  I’ve been researching and reading about the chemical BPA in plastics for months and I’m still having a hard time wrapping my mind around the terms and codes.  Between this, toy recalls, vaccination controversy…my heart just goes out to you.  If you are hearing the term ‘BPA’ for the first time, please read on and hopefully this article will help you.

BPA (Bisphenol A) is a component of epoxy resins that are used to line food cans and to make hard plastic polycarbonate bottles and containers.  Why is this substance in the news?  Many reports and studies are proving that BPA is leaching through plastic and this can lead to health concerns for your family.  BPA is linked to breast and prostate cancer and neurobehavioral changes in offspring exposed in the womb.  The Today Show describes the affects as being primarily reproductive and fertility in both male and female organisms.  

The chances of this chemical leaching are higher if you are heating or storing food/liquid in the plastic for long periods of time.    BPA raises special concerns because numerous studies have found it to be toxic at exposure levels equivalent to or even below the amounts detected in people.

Plastics to avoid:

#3 PVC – phthalates (hormone disruptor)
#7 polycarbonate – bisphenol-A (hormone disruptor)
#6 polystyrene – styrene – possible human carcinogen

The better plastics are:
polypropylene (#5)
polyethylene (#1,#2,#4).
The containers need to be discarded if they get worn down, degraded, overused etc.

What items contain BPA?

Drinking bottles:

Polycarbonate bottles: Studies show low levels of BPA leach out of   Polycarbonate bottles (like Nalgene and other hard, colored water bottles) at room temperature. More BPA leaches when the bottles are filled with hot liquid. Generally these bottles will be marked with recycling resin code number seven. Polycarbonate is hard, translucent or clear plastic.  If you’re going to use a polycarbonate bottle, be aware that it’s likely that higher amounts of BPA leach out of older and damaged bottles.

Other plastic bottles: Don’t reuse ‘single-use’ plastic drink bottles (PET, or #1 plastic). It’s a good instinct, but bacteria can build up on the inside, and they may leach chemicals too. Drop them in the recycling instead. Bottles made from flexible, cloudy-colored HDPE #2 are considered a safer option.

Food containers:

Canned Foods: No matter what brand you use or where you buy your canned food, the cans are almost certainly lined with an epoxy resin that contains BPA. If they didn’t use it, the cans might rust, or you might end up with metal residues in your food. But because of the high temperatures used in the canning process, your potential exposure to BPA from canned food is much higher than your potential exposure from plastic water bottles.

Reusable food containers:   Reusable containers may be made of polycarbonate. If not marked with a number 7, these would be very rigid clear or translucent plastic (not cloudy or flexible like yogurt containers). As an extra precaution, avoid putting hot liquids in these or microwaving them. In general it’s best to use safe ceramics or glass containers for microwaving whenever possible.

Plastic wrap: In 1998, it was revealed that some plastic wraps contained chemical plasticizers called phthalates, which can migrate into food. In 2006, the industry group American Chemistry Council reported that phthalates are no longer used in any US plastic wraps.  Companies aren’t required to list what’s in their plastic wrap, though, so your best bet is to be cautious: Avoid microwaving plastic wrap (use a paper towel instead), and if you must, make sure it’s a microwaveable version. That much, at least, will be listed on the box.

Products for baby:   Choose bottles made from glass or BPA-free plastic. Use a clear silicone nipple, and if you’re feeding formula use a powdered version mixed with unfluoridated water. As for pacifiers, while the hard plastic part may be made of polycarbonate plastic, that part doesn’t go in baby’s mouth — so get a version with a silicone nipple.

While I was flipping through my last London Drug’s flyer I noticed ‘Pyrex’ being advertised and it highlighted it was ‘BPA Free’.  With ‘The Today Show’ doing a story on BPA and this topic getting more media coverage, it will be a term you hear more and more often.  My husband Ray is looking like the star at work talking about this issue with the moms I’m sure!  <smile>


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