BPA is Everywhere - Are We Safe?

BPA is Everywhere - Are We Safe?

BPA is Everywhere - Are We Safe?

Plastics are everywhere and so is BPA. Is it a real environmental hazard or just another scare?

     
BPA is Everywhere - Are We Safe?
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BPA leaching into our foods including its association with baby bottles has created quite a stir since 2007 and remains a subject of intense controversy. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati published an article in Toxicology Letters reporting that BPA leaches out of polycarbonate bottles popularly used as drinking bottles. This report led to Nalgene plastic bottles taken off the shelves in Canada in December 2007.1

But what really got people's attention was when The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested infant formulas for BPA and detected BPA in some of the most popular brands. When questioned, 4 out of the top 5 companies admitted using BPA in their packaging.2

Otherwise known as Bisphenol A, BPA is a compound widely used in the manufacture of plastics and epoxy resins and can be found in plastics that we use every day from plastic containers and DVDs to eyeglasses and mobile phones. Plastics are categorized into 7 types according to the recycling process and the classification codes are located at the bottom of plastic containers. Both 3 and 7 which is designated as "other" contain BPA.3,4

The majority of exposure to BPA is through our diet and may be found in the following:

  • polycarbonate tableware
  • food packaging - cans, soup packets...
  • plastic water bottles
  • plastic baby bottles
  • dental materials

The National Center for Environmental Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a paper which reported that BPA was detected in the urine of 92.6% of 2,517 participants during the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHNES).5 And The National Toxicology Program (NTP) report on BPA expressed the following concerns:6

  • “some concern“ for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to BPA.
  • “minimal concern“ for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females, in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to BPA.
  • “negligible concern“ that exposure of pregnant women to BPA will result in fetal or neonatal mortality, birth defects, or reduced birth weight and growth in their offspring.
  • “negligible concern“ that exposure to BPA will cause reproductive effects in non-occupationally exposed adults and “minimal concern” for workers exposed to higher levels in occupational settings.
  • "Some concern" represents a midpoint in a 5-point scale of concern, with "serious concern" as the highest and "negligible concern" as the lowest.

So, why should we be concerned about BPA?

Cardiovascular and metabolic disorders - Researchers at the University of Exeter (UK) found that high levels of BPA in the urine were associated with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, and kidney problems. The NTP report also suggested that high BPA levels may be linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 7,8

Carcinogenicity - Two studies reported research results in mice exposed to BPA. One study reported that pregnant mice exposed to BPA suffered from altered the cellular structure of the breasts. A second study showed that female mice's exposure to low-dose BPA during fetal life or adulthood caused alterations in maternal behaviour.9,10

Researchers at University of Cincinnati report that BPA is linked to chemotherapy resistance. The study demonstrated that "BPA does not increase cancer cell proliferation like DES [cancer-promoting compound called diethylstilbestrol] does. It’s actually acting by protecting existing cancer cells from dying in response to anti-cancer drugs, making chemotherapy significantly less effective".11,12

According to the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) of the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics (AOEC) “BPA may cause changes in cells in breasts, the uterus, and the prostate which can increase risk of cancers”.13

Neurotoxicity - BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that mimics the neurotoxic properties of the hormone estrogen. The PEHSU report suggests that “BPA has been associated with increases in developmental disorders of the brain and nervous system in animals. These developmental disorders in animals are like problems such as ADHD (attention deficit hyper-reactivity disorder) in humans.”

Behavioral and hormonal problems -The NTP report also says that BPA can cause behavioral problems in fetuses, infants and children. It can induce early onset of puberty in girls and can cause reproductive disorders.

On the other hand in July 2008 The European Food Safety Authority’s AFC Panel declared that human exposure to BPA is too low to cause any real harm. According to the panel’s report, the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates BPA out of the body.14

And based on a review by a subcommittee, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that “consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies”.15

Nevertheless, it comes as no surprise that this controversy has generated a strong anti-BPA movement worldwide. 16,17

Canada announced its plans to ban BPA-containing bottles in April 2008 and the U.S. FDA established an agency-wide BPA task force to facilitate cross-agency review of current research and new information on BPA for all FDA regulated products.18

The Committee on Energy and Commerce threatened to subpoena the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for records the agency used in determining that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) was safe for use in making infant formula liners and other products intended for infants and children”, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).19

The states of Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware, through their attorney generals officially asked in writing 11 manufacturers to eliminate BPA from milk formula packaging as well from baby bottles.20Lawmakers in Suffolk County (New York) Legislature unanimously voted for the prohibition of use of BPA in baby bottles and 'sippy' cups to be used for children under the age of four. Other state legislatures are also seriously considering similar legislation. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut announced that 6 U.S. major baby bottle manufacturers have agreed to stop using BPA. "All six major baby bottle companies -- Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow -- have agreed to voluntarily ban BPA from bottles in a major public health victory."

So, what can we do to protect ourselves from BPA?

Recommendations from the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU)

  • Avoid plastics with symbol # 3 (PVC or polyvinyl), symbol # 6 (PS or polystyrene foam) and symbol # 7.
  • Do not microwave food/beverages in plastic
  • Do not microwave or heat plastic cling wraps
  • Do not place plastics in the dishwasher
  • If using hard polycarbonate plastics (water bottles/baby bottles/sippy cups), do not use for warm/hot liquids
  • Use safe alternatives such as glass or polyethylene plastic (symbol #1)
  • Avoid canned foods when possible (BPA may be used in can linings)
  • Look for labels on products that say “phthalate-free” or “BPA-free”

Recommendations from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI):21

  • Avoid plastic containers made of polycarbonate that has the recycling No. 3 or 7 on the bottom.
  • When possible, prepare or store food—especially hot foods and liquids—in glass, porcelain, or stainless steel dishes or containers.
  • If you have polycarbonate plastic food containers, don’t microwave them. The plastic is more likely to break down and release BPA when it’s repeatedly heated to high temperatures.
  • Don’t wash polycarbonate plastic containers in the dishwasher. The detergent may break down the plastic, which could release BPA.
  • Use infant formula bottles that are made of glass or BPA-free plastic. BornFree (newbornfree.com) is one of many companies that make them.
  • When you can, replace canned foods with foods that are fresh, frozen, or packaged in aseptic (shelf-stable) boxes. At least one manufacturer—Eden Foods—lines its cans with a BPA alternative made from plant extracts.
  • A good alternative to polycarbonate is polyethylene terephthalate (PETE), which has the recycling No. 1 on the bottom.
  • Avoid older versions of Delton dental sealant…Most dental sealants are free of BPA. However, older Delton sealants contain a compound that breaks down into BPA, mostly during the first day after it comes into contact with saliva.

The Bottom Line

BPA remains controversial. BPA is allegedly harmless until it gets in contact with food and drinks and leaches out with potential health risks.

If you must use plastic containers, pick BPA free and avoid recycling #3, 6 and 7. Or, better yet, go back to glass bottles!

Published March 26, 2009, updated August 16, 2012

 

Photo By: pfly


References

  1. Le HH et al, Bisphenol A is released from polycarbonate drinking bottles and mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons, Toxicol Lett. 2008 Jan 30;176(2):149-56. Epub 2007 Nov 19
  2. EWG's Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles, Environmental Working Group, December 2007
  3. Bisphenol-A, Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group
  4. The Hidden Danger in Your Baby's Bottles -Bisphenol A, Pharmaplus
  5. Calafat et al, Exposure of the U.S. population to bisphenol A and 4-tertiary-octylphenol, Environ Health Perspect. 2008 Jan;116(1):39-44
  6. BPA Fact Sheet, National Toxicology Program
  7. Lang et al, Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults, JAMA 2008 Sep 17;300(11):1303-10. Epub 2008 Sep 16
  8. Baker SL, New study confirms bisphenol A found in plastic is linked to heart disease, NaturalNews.com, January 18, 2010
  9. Vandenberg et al, Perinatal exposure to the xenoestrogen bisphenol-A induces mammary intraductal hyperplasias in adult CD-1 mice, Reprod Toxicol. 2008 Nov-Dec;26(3-4):210-9. Epub 2008 Oct 15
  10. Palanza et al, Effects of developmental exposure to bisphenol A on brain and behavior in mice, Environ Res. 2008 Oct;108(2):150-7
  11. LaPensee et al, Bisphenol A at Low Nanomolar Doses Confers Chemoresistance in Estrogen Receptor-α–Positive and –Negative Breast Cancer Cells, Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 117, Number 2, February 2009
  12. Bisphenol A Linked to Chemotherapy Resistance, UC Health News
  13. BPA and phthalates, Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit
  14. EFSA updates advice on bisphenol, European Food Safety Authority, 23 July 2008
  15. Regulatory Meeting with Manufacturers and Users of Bisphenol A-containing Materials, U.S. FDA Statement February 9, 2009.
  16. Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Baby Bottle Manufacturers, News Blaze, March 12,2007
  17. US BPA usage could be curbed, Royal Society of Chemistry, 11 March 2009
  18. Government of Canada Protects Families With Bisphenol A Regulations, Health Canada News Release, October 17, 2008
  19. Mitka M, Baby Bottle Safety, JAMA 2008;299(18):2141
  20. Attorney General Announces Baby Bottle Makers Agree To Stop Using BPA; Calls For Legislative Ban, Connecticut Attorney General's Office
  21. Hard questions about a Hard Plastic, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

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Last Updated : Friday, November 6, 2020