You’re eating this chemical every day and don’t even know it
Do you recognize this common chemical – bisphenol A, better known as BPA? It has come under a lot of heat over the past 15 years and here’s why…
It’s a chemical that we EAT AND DRINK. Daily. And in no small quantity depending on how your food is packaged, prepared, and consumed.
Regulatory bodies are currently investigating BPA’s effects on the human body after concerning results in animal studies; especially those relating to unborn fetuses and newborns. Thus far, regulatory bodies such as the FDA and CDC have allowed BPA in consumer products while they investigate the health outcomes further.
So the question is, will you wait until they find out more? Or will you decide to reduce your consumption of BPA now by making different choices at the grocery store?
How people are exposed to BPA
The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. While air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure, BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.1
General exposure to BPA comes from eating food or drinking water stored in containers that are made with BPA. BPA is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics. This type of plastic is used to make some types of beverage containers such as single-use water and soda bottles, reusable and single-use take-out containers, hot bar bowls and lids, compact disks, plastic dinnerware, impact-resistant safety equipment, automobile parts, and toys. BPA epoxy resins are used in the protective linings of food cans, in dental sealants, and in other products.
The kicker is, BPA in packaging does not stay in the packaging. It leaches out into the food and liquids within the package and you get your food with a side of BPA. Yum, right?! And the hotter the food or the longer it sat in contact with the container, the higher the amount of BPA transferred to the food.
What does this really mean though? How does BPA affect people’s health?
Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects on the brain and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children. It can also affect children’s behavior. Additional research suggests a possible link between BPA and increased blood pressure, according to the CDC.1
Human health effects from BPA at low environmental exposures are “unknown” according to the FDA. “BPA has been shown to affect the reproductive systems of laboratory animals. More research is needed to understand the human health effects of exposure to BPA.”2
“One reason people may be concerned about BPA is because human exposure to BPA is widespread. The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older. The CDC NHANES data are considered representative of exposures in the United States. Another reason for concern, especially for parents, may be because some animal studies report effects in fetuses and newborns exposed to BPA.”1
What does BPA do to us?
We still don’t really know, since we don’t have definitive studies of its effects in people yet; the truth is, we are all part of that data set right now and at some point in the future, researchers will look back and apply analysis to OUR long-term health outcomes to find a correlation.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration used to say that BPA was safe. But in 2010 the agency altered its position. The FDA maintains that studies using standardized toxicity tests have shown BPA to be safe at the current low levels of human exposure. But based on other evidence — largely from animal studies — the FDA expressed “some concern” about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands in fetuses, infants, and young children.1
How could BPA affect the body? Here are some areas of concern.
- Hormone levels. Some experts believe that BPA could theoretically act like a hormone in the body, disrupting normal hormone levels and development in fetuses, babies, and children. Animal studies have had mixed results.
- Brain and behavior problems. After a review of the evidence, the National Toxicology Program at the FDA expressed concern about BPA’s possible effects on the brain and behavior of infants and young children.
- Cancer. Some animal studies have shown a possible link between BPA exposure and a later increased risk of cancer and at least 6 studies have shown a correlation between high levels of BPA in the body and certain types of breast cancer and endometrial cancer.3,4,5,6,7,8
- Heart problems. Two studies have found that adults with the highest levels of BPA in their bodies seem to have a higher incidence of heart problems. However, the higher incidence could be unrelated to BPA.
- Other conditions. Some experts have looked into a connection between BPA exposure and many conditions — obesity, diabetes, ADHD, and others. The evidence isn’t strong enough to show a link.
- Increased risk to children. Some studies suggest that possible effects from BPA could be most pronounced in infants and young children. Their bodies are still developing and they are less efficient at eliminating substances from their systems.
BPA: Regulatory Action
The federal government is now funding new research into BPA risks. We don’t know the results of these studies yet. Recommendations about BPA could change in the next few years.
For now, there are no restrictions on the use of BPA in products. The Food and Drug Administration does recommend taking “reasonable steps” to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply.
Although the evidence is not certain, the FDA does recommend taking precautions against BPA exposure.
Trying to eliminate BPA from your child’s life is probably impossible. But limiting your child’s exposure — and your own — is possible. It doesn’t even have to be hard. Here are some tips on how to do it.
- Find products that are BPA-free. It isn’t as hard as it once was. Many brands of bottles, sippy cups, and other tableware prominently advertise that they are BPA-free.
- Look for infant formula that is BPA-free. Many brands no longer contain BPA in the can. If a brand does have BPA in the lining, some experts recommend powdered formula over liquid. Liquid is more likely to absorb BPA from the lining.
- Choose non-plastic containers for food. Containers made of glass, porcelain, or stainless steel do not contain BPA.
- Do not heat plastic that could contain BPA. Never use plastic in the microwave, since heat can cause BPA to leach out. For the same reason, never pour boiling water into a plastic bottle when making formula. Hand-wash plastic bottles, cups, and plates.
- Throw out any plastic products — like bottles or sippy cups — that are chipped or cracked. They can harbor germs. If they also have BPA, it’s more likely to leach into food.
- Use fewer canned foods and more fresh or frozen. Many canned foods still contain BPA in their linings.
- Avoid plastics with a 3 or a 7 recycle code on the bottom. These plastics might contain BPA. Other types of numbered plastic are much less likely to have BPA in them.
That list was just a starting point. Follow along this week in The Hassle-Free Family to find out even more ways to reduce your exposure to BPA through small changes in your daily life.
1“Bisphenol A (BPA) Factsheet.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Apr. 2017, www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/BisphenolA_FactSheet.html.
2”Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in food contact application.” United States Food & Drug Administration, FDA. (2018, June 27). https://www.fda.gov/food/food-additives-petitions/bisphenol-bpa-use-food-contact-application
3Song H, Zhang T, Yang P, Li M, Yang Y, Wang Y, Du J, Pan K, Zhang K. Low doses of bisphenol A stimulate the proliferation of breast cancer cells via ERK1/2/ERRγ signals. Toxicol In Vitro. 2015 Dec 25;30(1 Pt B):521-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2015.09.009. Epub 2015 Sep 9. PMID: 26363202. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26363202/
4Yaguchi T. The endocrine disruptor bisphenol A promotes nuclear ERRγ translocation, facilitating cell proliferation of Grade I endometrial cancer cells via EGF-dependent and EGF-independent pathways. Mol Cell Biochem. 2019 Feb;452(1-2):41-50. doi: 10.1007/s11010-018-3410-0. Epub 2018 Jul 18. PMID: 30022450. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30022450/
5 Shafei A, Matbouly M, Mostafa E, Al Sannat S, Abdelrahman M, Lewis B, Muhammad B, Mohamed S, Mostafa RM. Stop eating plastic, molecular signaling of bisphenol A in breast cancer. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2018 Aug;25(24):23624-23630. doi: 10.1007/s11356-018-2540-y. Epub 2018 Jun 29. PMID: 29959737. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29959737/
6 Boszkiewicz K, Sawicka E, Piwowar A. The impact of xenoestrogens on effectiveness of treatment for hormone-dependent breast cancer – current state of knowledge and perspectives for research. Ann Agric Environ Med. 2020 Dec 22;27(4):526-534. doi: 10.26444/aaem/124165. Epub 2020 Jul 3. PMID: 33356056. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33356056/
7 Lei B, Huang Y, Liu Y, Xu J, Sun S, Zhang X, Xu G, Wu M, Yu Y, Feng C. Low-concentration BPF induced cell biological responses by the ERα and GPER1-mediated signaling pathways in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2018 Dec 15;165:144-152. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2018.08.102. Epub 2018 Sep 5. PMID: 30195206. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30195206/
8 Zhang XL, Wang HS, Liu N, Ge LC. Bisphenol A stimulates the epithelial mesenchymal transition of estrogen negative breast cancer cells via FOXA1 signals. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2015 Nov 1;585:10-16. doi: 10.1016/j.abb.2015.09.006. Epub 2015 Sep 9. PMID: 26363213. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26363213/