No doubt you’ve heard about the harmful effects that BPA (Bisphenol-A) can have on health. As a busy parent, you’re probably concerned but may be overwhelmed with yet another health hazard to watch out for.
It’s important to consider the evidence when looking beyond the hype of potentially harmful additives. Is BPA really that bad? And should you be taking extra steps to protect your family?
I hope to give you some answers by providing an overview of the potential risks of BPA, what’s being done to determine its safety and super easy ways to make your family BPA free (well, almost).
What and where is it?
BPA is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics and is found in epoxy resins, the lining of metal-based food and beverage cans. As a result, it’s found in canned products and any item made with polycarbonate plastics such as food and drink packaging, food storage containers and water and baby bottles. Since the 1960s the FDA has allowed the use of BPA under its food additive regulation.
What are the risks?
Until recent years the FDA has considered BPA safe. But results of recent animal studies, with BPA intakes similar to human consumption, have brought up the question of safety. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) reviewed the weight of the evidence and decided there was some concern for BPA’s effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current levels of consumption (see chart).
The report concludes that many of the studies are conflicting and that the uncertainties of BPA’s safety remain. There’s a lack of human studies — and there are limitations when extrapolating results of animal studies to humans. So this doesn’t mean BPA isn’t safe, but there’s more research that needs to be done.
What’s being done?
The FDA and NTP are calling for in-depth studies to clarify the risks of BPA. In the meantime, the FDA supports the effort to stop making BPA-containing baby bottles and feeding cups and is looking for alternatives to replace BPA in products. See this report for more details.
How to reduce your family’s exposure
The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) found detectable BPA levels in 93 percent of 2317 urine samples (age 6 and older). Until we have more answers it makes sense to reduce exposure to BPA, especially in young children who are more vulnerable.
So here are four easy ways to get your family on the road to being BPA-free. The added bonus? Many of these changes are also good for the environment.
1. Switch from plastic food storage to glass
Before having kids I never had to worry about leftovers. But it seems almost every night my husband and I are packing away some of our dinners. These make great lunches or even repeat dinners.
Switching to glass storage like Pyrex is a win-win. It’s just nicer to store food in glass because it doesn’t absorb the odors the way plastic does. Oh, and it’s BPA-free.
And if you are still using plastic, never microwave food in it because the heat causes BPA to leach into the food.
2. Reduce your use of canned goods
Now this is a tough one. There are many healthy canned items such as beans and tomatoes. Look for products that are boxed instead of canned like these Pomi tomatoes pictured and broth.
But the reality is that many soups and beans are still canned. One of my goals is to make more beans in the slow cooker and freeze them as Stephanie suggests at A Year of Slow Cooking. And let’s face it, soup just tastes better when it’s homemade (again, perfect for the slow cooker).
And if you’re feeling really adventurous you can “can” your own food in glass jars. Simple Bites has some great posts on how to do it.
3. Choose stainless steel water bottles
Make the switch to a BPA-free water container like stainless steel over hard plastic and water bottles. I like stainless steel because it’s durable and many of the tops actually seem to keep the water from leaking.
4. Choose “BPA-free” products
While many baby bottles and sippy cups are BPA-free, make sure “BPA-free” is on the label or on the bottom of the cup. Companies are not required to tell consumers which of their products have BPA — but when you see the BPA free label you know it’s free of the chemical.
You can also check the bottom of the container to look for the number 7 which may indicate it contains BPA (some controversy about this). For more BPA-free products in the grocery store see this article.
As new changes in regulations come about I’ll be sure to keep you informed. So tell me, have you been avoiding BPA for a while or are you new to all of this?
For more helpful advice on feeding your family check out Maryann’s book: Fearless Feeding: How to Raise Healthy Eaters from Highchair to High School.