Raising Healthy Kids: Avoid BPA

Classic Glass Baby Bottle – BPA Free

Update: The FDA is planning to decide whether or not to continue allowing food packaging that leaches BPA by March 31, 2012. There is no time to lose – the FDA has to hear from you before it makes its call. The government needs to know that Americans will not stand for food contaminated with toxic chemicals. Use this form to email the FDA today and tell them you want BPA out of your food’s packaging!

More on BPA:
A few weeks ago my mother called me to make sure that I was using all BPA-free baby bottles. She had heard on the news that Canada had banned BPA from baby bottles and that there were concerns about how it affects the brain, behavior and the prostrate gland, particularly in babies and children. I assured her that before our baby was born (he’s over a year now) I had gotten rid of all our bottles that even possibly had BPA in them and replaced them with BPA-free bottles. In fact, we had recently gone through the water bottles and canteens in her house and taken all the ones that might have BPA and recycled them! Several years ago news of BPA and it’s health concerns made a big impact on my mothers-of-twins email list and we have been trying to phase BPA out of our lives since then.

When I got that call I laughed about how behind-the-news my mother was, but the more I thought about it the more bothered I became. My mother is very well-educated and tuned in to current events and she’s a nurse in a leading research hospital, so she tends to know about health concerns long before the rest of us do. If she was not previously aware of the dangers of BPA, then there were probably many more people who are not aware either.

What is BPA?
BPA is short for Bisphenol A, a chemical that is used in the production of certain kinds of plastics and resins. It is a chemical that has been used in plastics and in the linings of canned food for over 40 years. Some people use this as an argument that it must be safe. However, studies show that exposure to BPA in the womb and as a baby can cause long-term health problems and possibly affect the development of the brain. Studies have linked it to cancer, obesity, early onset of puberty and immune response. No one argues that Americans are ingesting measurable amounts of BPA – studies have found that BPA is detectable in the urine of 90% of Americans including kids.

I look at all the children and young adults with health problems, asthma, allergies and developmental problems that are much more numerous than 50 years ago and I have to wonder. There are many possible explanations for these problems. Could this be one of them? Well recent studies show that it is a health concern. The US EPA, National Institutes of Health and FDA all agree that there is at least some concern about BPA and they all have web pages with suggestions about how to avoid it. The US Department of Health and Human Services has a particularly easy-to-understand page on BPA. Canada, Denmark and France banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and in late November the European Union passed a ban that goes into effect in 2011.

Why hasn’t the US banned BPA?
There are strong lobbies – like the Chemical Association – who want people to think this chemical is harmless and they have convinced the Republicans in Congress. In November the US Senate removed language that would have banned BPA in baby bottles in the US from the food safety bill that they have subsequently passed – without the ban. So what can you do when our government is so responsive to the powerful lobbies?

How can you avoid BPA?

There are many articles and websites with information about how to avoid BPA including some of the ones sited above. Here is my summary:

  • chasing arrows #7 pictured on a deep blue water bottleAvoid storing food in containers with a “7” inside the chasing arrows. These are the plastics that *may* contain BPA, which was used in many clear translucent hard plastic bottles.
  • can of powedered baby food, the can liner contains BPA
    Baby Formula

    The FDA recommends “breastfeeding as the optimal nutrition for infants.” However, they are facilitating the development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans.

  • Obtain baby bottles labeled “BPA-free” or made from glass (I used some glass baby bottles this year and even in our crazy house, none have broken!) The Daily Green has more information about baby bottles without BPA.
  • All these cans have
    BPA in their can liners

    Avoid canned food, unless from a company that doesn’t use BPA in it’s cans. Interestingly, many companies that offer BPA-free cans do not label their cans as such. Treehugger has an article about BPA free canned products. The most notable company is Eden Organic, who has had BPA-free cans for their beans since 1999!

  • Wash your hands after handling cash register receipts. Really! The latest stir about BPA is around the fact that most receipts from stores and ATMs have high levels of BPA in them that transfers to your skin when you touch them, and then may be absorbed or transferred to your food when you eat. And don’t use alcohol based hand sanitizers immediately after handling one of these thermal receipts as that has been found to increase the absorption of BPA through the skin.

What Can You Do?
Write to your congressmen and tell them that you want them to ban BPA, particularly in baby bottles and baby formula. Then vote with your wallet. Many things that you could only buy in cans before you can buy in other containers now. I have been buying soups and broths in tetrapaks which we can recycle with co-mingled or single-stream recycling, rather than canned products. I have been buying dry beans and soaking and cooking them, rather than canned (they’re cheaper too!). The hardest thing to find alternatives for is tomato products, and even the companies making BPA-free canned products do not have BPA-free canned tomatoes because the FDA has not approved an alternative for canned tomatoes.

Happy Greening!
Alicia



Now that you know about BPA, will you try to avoid it?



Comments

  1. I’ve got some old (circa 2004) plastic starbucks travel mugs. Should I be worried about them containing BPA, if they are only used by adults? What if the lining on the mug is starting to crack?

  2. If your old plastic items are old, and not labeled with a recycling arrow and code, then you really have no way of knowing if there is BPA in them, and yes, I’d consider getting rid of them or not using them with hot beverages.

    I’m not sure if the lining cracking makes it worse or not. The insidious part of BPA is that it has been approved to be in the part of the containers that has direct contact with food.

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