Unless you have been living under a rock you have heard about the concern over human exposure to Bisphenol A, also referred to as BPA. BPA is an organic compound (chemical formula (CH3)2C(C6H4OH)2 ) which is a colorless solid used to confer hardness to polycarbonate plastic. It is also used in epoxy resins to create and antibacterial coating in the lining of metal cans which are used in the food industry. BPA can leech from containers into the foods they hold and become ingested by individuals when those food items are consumed.
What makes BPA a concern for people is the fact that it is a weak endocrine disruptor which mimics estrogen and has substantial negative side effects on health. A U.S. Government sponsored review of the scientific literature on BPA was conducted in 2006, resulting in the following statement:”BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals.” I don’t know about you, but such a conclusion is terrifying to me and enough to keep me invested in using containers made of stainless steel, glass, and BPA-free plastic for the rest of my life.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that approximately 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. Even at low doses, BPA causes diabetes, heart disease, reproductive issues, breast and prostate cancer, low sperm count, altered brain development and obesity. When one considers the long-term exposure to which most of us have been subjected, the implications become staggering and quite disconcerting.
Diseases Linked to BPA Exposure
HEART DISEASE – Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys discovered that men with the highest levels of BPA exposure (measured through urinary samples) were 10% more likely to develop heart disease. It is believed that BPA suppresses a hormone which has a protective effect against heart attacks, oxidative stress, and damage to blood vessels.
DIABETES AND OBESITY – BPA causes an increase in insulin release from the pancreas which causes a reduction in the body’s ability to utilize fat, thus increasing the risk for both diabetes and obesity.
THYROID FUNCTION – BPA has been shown to bind to thyroid hormone receptors, thus disrupting normal thyroid function.
NEUROLOGICAL DAMAGE – Numerous research studies on different animal models have determined that low-dose BPA maternal exposure causes long-term neurobehavioral development in developing fetuses, interfering with brain cell connections vital to memory, attention and mood. Furthermore, BPA potentiates, or boosts, central dopaminergic systems, creating increased sensitivity to drug-abuse induced reward effects.
INTESTINAL DAMAGE – BPA can damage intestinal lining, causing “leaky gut syndrome”. This interferes with the gut’s ability to block toxins and bacteria from entering the body.
INFERTILITY – Chronic exposure to low doses of BPA can impair the growth and function of the egg cells which are involved in ovulation due to the fact that it binds to receptors in the cells which are designed to bind with estrogen.
ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION – A 2009 study conducted on over 200 Chinese workers in BPA factories found that those men were four times more likely to have erectile dysfunction and seven times more likely to have problems with ejaculation.
CANCER – BPA is capable of inducing neoplastic transformation in human breast epithelial cells and has also been found to reduce sensitivity to chemotherapy treatment of specific tumors.
Where BPA Lurks
BPA is far more pervasive than you may ever imagine. Here is a list of items which have been found to contain BPA:
· Water bottles
· Food cans
· Soda cans
· Infant formula
· Wine and Beer (due to fermentation in BPA resin lined vats)
· Recycled paper (including toilet paper)
· Baby bottles
· Dental fillings
· Plastic cups
· Hard plastic 5-gallon drinking water bottles
· Credit card receipts at gas stations
· Plastic food storage containers
The Centers for Disease Control have conducted numerous studies which have detected BPA in the urine of over 90% of adults and children tested. Another study which was conducted in 2009 revealed that drinking from plastic water bottles almost doubled urinary BPA levels. Yet another study examined subjects who consumed canned soup during one test period and fresh soup during another test period. After only five days the participants consuming the canned soup had an increase in urinary BPA levels of 1221% compared to those consuming fresh soup.
Guidelines to Minimizing BPA Exposure
Fortunately a large number of food storage containers can now be found which utilize stainless steel, glass and BPA-free plastics. In fact many shaker cups are now being constructed from BPA-free plastic. A handful of bodybuilders who still incorporate canned tuna into their meal plans have the option of purchasing their tuna in foil pouches instead of cans which are lined with BPA.
I realize that the following list is rather comprehensive, so it is up to you to decide how aggressively you would like to minimize BPA exposure.
· Do not drink out of plastic water bottles unless they are BPA-free.
· Replace plastic storage containers with those made of stainless steel, glass, ceramic or paper. If you must use plastic, look for resin identification codes (the number on the underside of containers) 4, 5, 1 or 2. Make sure to avoid containers marked with 7, as these almost invariably contain BPA.
· Avoid purchasing food and beverages which are packaged in cans.
· Wrap sandwiches in paper or cloth.
· Do not drink soda from a can.
· Avoid purchasing recycled toilet paper or paper products.
· Never heat food in plastic or place warm or hot food into plastic containers, bags, or cling wraps.
· Do not put plastic items in dishwasher.
· Avoid contact between acidic or fatty foods and plastic.
· Use metal eating utensils.
· Purchase reusable water bottles and shaker cups which are labeled BPA-free.
· Buy glass appliances whenever possible. (eg: blenders)
· Replace plastic coffee filters with ceramic or metal ones
· If you use a French press for coffee, make sure it is all metal and glass with no plastic parts.
· Wash hands after touching cash register receipts or money.