In the past year, information about BPA has graced the headlines of newspapers and websites around the world. This organic compound has been accused of causing health problems in humans and animals, and has even made the list of toxic substances in some countries. What exactly is BPA and should you be avoiding it?
What is BPA?
BPA is the abbreviation for Bisphenol A. This compound is used in a number of everyday items, including plastics. The most common place it is found is in polycarbonate plastics, which are popular because they are nearly shatterproof. Polycarbonates are used to make water bottles, medical devices, CDs and DVDs, and sports equipment.
Effects of BPA
Many people have been concerned about the use of BPA since the 1930s, but it was not until 1997 that the first adverse effects were seen. BPA is an endocrine disrupter, which means that it acts like a hormone, confusing your body’s natural hormones. Like most toxic substances, exposure to BPA is most troublesome during the years of early development.
BPA is extremely common in western society, and almost everyone has been exposed to at least some. A study done in 2004, found that 93% of people tested had at least some bisphenol A in their urine. For every compound, the Environmental Protection Agency has an exposure level they deem safe. For BPA, it is though to be safe is a person has fifty micrograms of BPA per kilogram per day.
While only animal studies have been done, BPA has been linked to changes in breast tissue that predispose a person to breast cancer, increased prostate weight, decreased amounts of testicular testosterone, and increased risk of other cancers. In October of 2008, Canada officially listed BPA as a hazardous substance. The United States has not followed suit, citing the fact that the evidence is inconclusive.
Avoiding BPA is sometimes difficult, but it can be done. Since it is most often found in types of plastics, it is best to avoid the types of plastics that contain BPA. Somewhere on every plastic bottle, there is an icon that tells you what type of plastic it is made out of. There are seven different classes of plastic used for commercial packaging. The seventh class is a catch all for any plastic that is not in another class. BPA is found in plastics in classes three and seven.
A number of plastic water bottle makers have come out with new, BPA free bottles. In addition, there are a number of bottles not made from plastic that also work well. Some canned foods use a plastic lining that may contain BPA. Avoiding canned food as often as possible is another way to reduce your exposure. Small amounts of exposure are not likely to be toxic, but repeated exposure over time may become problematic.
My favorite BPA-free water bottle is available from Amazon.
A great non-plastic water bottle