A Common and Silent Danger

Saturday, June 5, 2010

{Image Credit: Amazon.com}

Most of you have probably heard of BPA, and the recent concern of the health risks it poses.  You may have already switched to BPA-free bottles and sippy cups.  But the truth is, you children and yourselves are continually being exposed to it through other means that you may not have thought of yet.  I thought I would take the opportunity to pass on some important information regarding BPA, and some ways to limit your family's exposure to the chemical.

This article by Mindful Mama, states that "After nearly forty years of use as a common industrial chemical, shocking and controversial health information concerning the chemical Bisphenol A (found in some baby bottles and food/beverage products) grabbed the attention of the media and parents around the world, unleashing a flurry of investigations into the health risks associated with this toxic chemical. In a recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, scientists found BPA in the urine of nearly all who were tested, which indicates widespread exposure to BPA in the U.S. population.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released breaking news: BPA was added to its list of "chemicals of concern," and they will now begin conducting an Environmental Impact Investigation on the BPA toxin. This news came shortly after the Food and Drug Administration changed their stance on BPA by releasing a cautionary statement naming BPA as a safety risk.

It has been found that BPA mimics estrogen, a hormone that controls brain development, the reproductive system, and the development of growing fetuses. BPA has been linked to hormone disruptions, birth defects, endocrine disruption, developmental problems in children, Neuroblastoma, and an increased risk of asthma, prostate cancer, breast cancer, sexual dysfunction, early puberty, heart disease, and a gamut of neurological problems."

People ingest this chemical via the food they eat, due to the leaching of the chemical from the food packaging.  This includes baby bottles and pacifiers, plastic tableware (plates, bowls, forks, knives, spoons, etc.), canned food (often times cans have liners that you may or may not see that have BPA), plastic water bottles, juice bottles, milk jugs, microwave dinner containers, frozen juice containers, and many more. 

A recent survey of canned food containers by the Environmental Working Group found:

"•Of all foods tested, chicken soup, infant formula, and ravioli had BPA levels of highest concern. Just one to three servings of foods with these concentrations could expose a woman or child to BPA at levels that caused serious adverse effects in animal tests.

•For 1 in 10 cans of all food tested, and 1 in 3 cans of infant formula, a single serving contained enough BPA to expose a woman or infant to BPA levels more than 200 times the government's traditional safe level of exposure for industrial chemicals. The government typically mandates a 1,000- to 3,000-fold margin of safety between human exposures and levels found to harm lab animals, but these servings contained levels of BPA less than 5 times lower than doses that harmed lab animals."

Our exposure to BPA up to this point has been unregulated.  It could be included in any food container.  There were no safety standards in place.  Exposure in the womb and early childhood has been found to be the most damaging,.  BPA has been found in "breast milk, serum, saliva, urine, amniotic fluid, and cord blood... and so common in products and industrial waste that it pollutes not only people but also rivers, estuaries, sediment, house dust, and even air nearly everywhere it is tested."  It accumulates in amniotic fluid (Yamada et al. 2002), providing a specific risk to the developing fetus.

At this point, only 5 states have outlawed the use of BPA in baby bottles.  Hopefully more are to follow, but it is up to you, the parent, to limit your family's exposure to these chemicals. 

There are things you can do:

BPA leaching is accelerated through exposure to heat.  Don't wash plastic products in the dishwasher or use them in the microwave. If you must use plastic products (like tupperware), replace them often, as all plastics break down after repeated uses and will leach more and more BPA into your food.  Scratched and worn plastic containers are much riskier for exposure.

According to Mindful Mama, it is also accelerated when exposed to acidic foods such as fruit (apple juice and applesauce, pineapples, etc.), tomatoes, fatty foods like fish, and any product containing alcohol. 

Cleaning containers also contain BPA and are more dangerous when they contain alcohol and other cleaning agents.  The FDA reports that liquid infant formula contains higher levels of BPA than powder formula. 

Verify that your canned foods, beer, etc. do not have lined cans.

Ensure that any plastics that your baby uses for food are BPA-free.  Many companies produce BPA-free options now, and they are readily available at your local stores, Amazon.com, etc.

Limit your household exposure to plastics.  Buy milk in cardboard cartons rather than plastic, your applesauce in glass jars instead of plastic, as well as your baby food.

I knew BPA was harmful, but I didn't know the extent of my family's exposure until I read more about it.
Feel free to pass along the information here to your own friends and family!



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