Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Decreasing Your Family's Exposure to BPA

What is BPA?  Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor found in polycarbonates and resins and unfortunately is in the majority of Americans' blood due to its prevalence in our environment.

Where BPA be found:  Toys, laptops, phones, CDs, DVDs, eyeglasses, water bottles, canned food, (including canned drink like soft drinks and beer), dental fillings, canning jar lids, small appliances, plastic wrap and sandwich bags, take-out containers, plastic items with a #7 recycling code, some plastic items with a #3 recycling code, and receipts just to name a few items.

The health effects of BPA: BPA is a very alarming chemical in that just low, active doses of it can cause so much harm.  Here are just some of the numerous health hazards associated with this chemical:
1.) BPA mimics estrogen and has been linked to breast cancer and several other cancers.
2.) Early puberty.
3.) Obesity and insulin resistance.
4.) Heart Disease
5.) Reproductive issues like lower sperm count, enlarged prostate glands, and chromosomal abnormalities in eggs.

How to decrease your exposure to BPA:  BPA is found in many items in the modern world.  Since you can't control what goes on outside your home, the best way to limit your exposure is to eliminate it as much as possible in your own home.  Here are some ways to start:
1.) Call the companies for the plastic toys and food storage items you do own.  BPA awareness is a fairly recent occurrence so chances are high that those old plastic containers and old plastic cutting boards you have at home are made with BPA and are leaching the chemical into food stored or prepared in or on them.  When you use a plastic cutting board, there are bound to be shavings that adhere to whatever you are cutting.  Switch to wooden cutting boards to eliminate this issue.  Replace plastic food storage containers with glass.  Pyrex is a great glass option, with plastic lids that are BPA free.  I use them to store our food in the fridge and they come in smaller sizes which are great for refrigerating baby food as well.
2.) While some canned drink makers are in the process of eliminating BPA from their linings, it is safest to buy your beer, juices and soft drinks in bottles.
3.) Avoid canned food.  This is not difficult to do.  It just takes a little more time to boil tomatoes into a puree or soak beans and lentils overnight before cooking them in a pot (or save more time with a pressure cooker).  It is worth the extra effort to reduce BPA exposure.  If you absolutely must use a can, Eden Foods, is one of the only canned food makers in America that does not use BPA in its lining.  You can read more about them here.
4.) Look for BPA-free alternatives.  There are now BPA-free canning jars, blenders, and food processors.  And if they are BPA-free they generally announce it all over their packaging so it is not difficult to find. See the Soft Landing's post for more information.
5.) Only buy non-toxic toys for kids.  It is fairly easy, especially for younger children and babies, to completely avoid plastic toys.  Two great, non-toxic wooden toy makers are PlanToys and Haba.  Both are easily found on Amazon,, and Zulily, in addition to several other local specialty toy stores and online retailers.  If you want plastic toys, check with the manufacturer and websites like to find BPA free options.  Step2 makes several large scale play items like slides and cars that are BPA free.  They print their recycling codes right on the toys so you can check out what they're made of before you purchase the items.
6.) Following the same tactics as listed above, ensure that your children's serveware and bottles are BPA free.  Stainless steel is a great replacement for plastic plates and cups for kids.
7.) Use unlined, BPA-free, stainless steel water bottles that are responsibly made like Klean Kanteens, available on Amazon, instead of polycarbonate bottles.
8.) There are usually several news stories each year around the holidays about how BPA can seep into your system just by handling receipts.  While you sometimes need to handle receipts, on those ocassions where you don't need one, just inform the cashier and skip handling the receipt.
9.) When possible, only use safe plastics.  Check the recycling codes underneath the disposable serveware and silverware used in restaurants and at home.  This easy to remember rhyme, stated in the book, Slow Death By Rubber Duck, can help you avoid BPA and phthalates: "4, 5, 1 and 2; all the rest are bad for you."
10.) Never heat plastic, including cling wrap and those microwaveable splatter shields.  And remember, just running BPA containing plastic in the dishwasher heats it.
11.) Use cloth bags instead of plastic, or if your reusable bag is made from plastic, make sure it is one of the safer plastics.  If you need to use plastic wrap or disposable plastic sandwich bags, use brands like Ziploc and SaranWrap, which are free of BPA.
12.) Use BPA free toothbrushes for your children, such as ones made by MAM.

Further Reading:
1.) Slow Death By Rubber Duck
2.) The NRDC's fact sheet on BPA.
3.) EWG's list of endocrine disruptors.

Previous Articles on Avoiding Toxins:
1.) Decreasing Your Family's Exposure to PFOAs

Check back every Monday and Thursday for new posts.  Up next in the series on Decreasing Your Family's Exposure to Toxins: Triclosan, at the end of November.  And in the upcoming months there will be posts on decreasing your exposure to Herbicides, Phthalates, RBST, GMOs and PBDEs.

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