BPA (or Bishpenol-A) is a chemical substance used to make products like polycarbonate plastics, epoxy resins (to line food containers) and white dental sealants. It is also an additive in the plastics used to make some children's toys.
The bad news is that BPA has made headlines recently as it has been linked to nasty health effects such as behavioral changes, early puberty, reduced sperm count, breast cancer and prostate disease. And the really bad news is that BPA is now found in so many products that we're all being exposed to it on a daily basis...especially our children.
When products made with BPA are exposed to high temperatures or hard usage, BPA leaches out much faster (as much as 55 times faster) than under normal conditions. So the standard advice has been to avoid using boiling liquids or dishwashers, and toss them when they get nicked or cracked.
However, new research shows that BPA has grown so common that even the low-dose exposure from regular use of water bottles or canned foods may have detrimental health effects. In a recent survey conducted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, researchers found BPA in the urine of 93 percent of participants. According to the study, "Females had significantly higher levels of BPA in their urine than males. Children had the highest levels, followed by teens and adults."
The bottom line is that BPA is bad for your health and it is especially bad for the developing immune systems of children. So it's a good idea to minimize your family's exposure. That's easier said then done, unless of course you know what to look for. So here's how to make your home BPA-free.
The BPA controversy has centered on water bottles, but the truth is that canned foods may pose an even greater risk to human health. A recent study by the Environmental Working Group found BPA in more than half of canned food tested, at levels they call "200 times the government's traditional safe level of exposure for industrial chemicals." According to the EWG:
"Of all foods tested, chicken soup, infant formula and ravioli had BPA levels of highest concern. Just one to three servings of foods with these concentrations could expose a woman or child to BPA at levels that caused serious adverse effects in animal tests."
Look For: Minimize your exposure to BPA-laden cans by eating fresh foods instead of canned. When you do buy prepackaged, choose glass bottles instead of cans. And although it is new, some manufacturers are now producing BPA free cans … read the label carefully to be sure.
AVOID: Steer clear of canned food altogether if you are pregnant. And of course, breast is best for newborns. But if you do choose to use formula, avoid canned varieties as all U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of their containers. Look for powdered or liquid formula in plastic bottles instead.
BPA in Dental Sealants
As if you and your family didn't already have enough to worry about, new research has found "detectable levels of BPA in the saliva of patients after they received sealants or fillings."
As you might expect, industry experts are divided as to whether or not the level of BPA that leaches from dental sealants is enough to be of concern. The official line from the American Dental Association maintains, "… none of the dental sealants that carry the ADA Seal release detectable BPA, although it must be emphasized that there is no evidence to suggest a link between any adverse health condition and BPA leached out of dental sealants."
Unfortunately, the ADA's definition of "detectable" differs with other research on the low-dose health effects of BPA.
So what's a BPA-wary parent to do? Well, you can't exactly replace your fillings as easily as you can your water bottle, and the other mercury-laced filling options pose just as many (if not more) health risks. So there's never been a better reason to brush, brush, brush.
Jenn Savedge is a full-time mom, environmentalist, and author who researches and writes about the two topics that are closest to her heart: children and the environment. Her first book, The Green Parent, A Kid-Friendly Guide to Earth Friendly Living (Kedzie Press, 2008) teaches parents how to go green while raising a family. Visit Jenn online at www.thegreenparent.com.