We’ve all heard the term BPA-free being thrown around and put on plastic bottles everywhere. You’ve likely heard that BPA is bad and you vaguely know you need to avoid it, you probably have even chosen one product over another because it had a sticker on it that said ‘BPA-free’ – but what actually is BPA? Why do we need to avoid it? And is BPA-free the safest option?
BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial chemical that is used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
Polycarbonate plastics are mostly used in food and beverage packaging – most commonly in water bottles and plastic food packaging. Epoxy resins are used to coat the inside of food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites might also contain BPA.
What’s the danger of BPA?
There have been many studies done to examine the effects of BPA – how it reacts once it enters the body and it’s possible impacts. This research has shown that BPA acts like a hormone, mimicking oestrogen in the body. This can cause disrupted human development, making it particularly dangerous for infants.
BPA has been linked to heart disease, reproductive problems, behavioural problems and breast and prostate cancers. It can potentially affect the liver and kidneys, and it may possibly affect reproductive, nervous, immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems.
In 2011, the American Medical Association deemed BPA an “endocrine-disrupting agent”.
Beverly Rubin, a reproductive neuroendocrinologist at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, found that mice exposed to “realistic levels” of BPA needed three times as much insulin to control their glucose levels after a meal, which is a sign of diabetes. (1)
These risks have led to some bans on BPA and the popular ‘BPA-free’ label.
The US FDA has banned BPA in baby bottles and cups as well as baby-formula packaging, while still not admitting that it’s a problem so doesn’t need to be banned in all food packaging. The European Union and Canada have also banned BPA in baby bottles. (2)
So is BPA-free Safer?
When you take out the BPA, you have to replace it with something else, which may not be any safer.
Many products labelled ‘BPA-free’, although not all, actually have similar plasticizer chemicals that also disrupt hormones and the endocrine system. Research shows that BPA’s common replacement, bisphenol S (BPS) is just as harmful, and was found in a recent study to have a significantly higher absorption in skin compared to BPA. (3)
The questions you should be asking
The question should be asked – how can these things be getting approved for use in our food system without properly being studied for long term effects on health?
And even more importantly, have we as a society completely gone mad when we have to be scientifically studying things for safety in our food supply because they are so unnatural? When you really think about that, you can see how much we have lost touch with reality.
All industrial chemicals should be guilty until proved innocent, not innocent until ‘more research is done’.
We won’t know the long term effects of BPA and many other things we put in our food, food packaging and preparation for a long time, until it’s already done widespread damage. BPA has been in consumer products since the 40’s, and only now are we really discovering its effects.
Maybe just one thing, like BPA, wouldn’t have a big enough impact to matter (although research search shows even at low levels it does) – but there are thousands of chemicals just like BPA we come into contact with every single day – with air pollution, hand soaps, shampoos, beauty products filled with chemicals, pharmaceuticals, the chemical filled water supply (chlorine, fluoride, pharmaceutical contamination) and it just goes on and on and on. This all builds up and has an effect on all of us.
Here’s a lovely quote from TIME magazine that sums up how used to being poisoned we have become:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency and other government safety offices fight with industry to find that safe level below which the toxins that are part of modern life can be tolerated.
By toxins, they mean the toxic-to-human-health-synthetic-chemicals that ‘industry’ puts into our food supply. ‘Fight’ is a laughable verb to use. Most chemicals used in consumer products have not been properly tested for safety.
It’s hard to believe we’re now living in a world where we don’t think that is crazy.
Next week I’ll be sharing with you 5 ways to avoid BPA (and it’s alternatives)!
Do you avoid BPA? Did you know what it was?