Monday, May 9, 2011

How to Reduce Your Exposure to BPA

Bisphenol A (BPA) is ubiquitous in our society; it is in toys, baby bottles, vinyl goods, medical equipment and a host of other everyday products. It’s also in our urine: In a recent survey done by the National Health Nutrition Survey, BPA was detected in urine samples of 92.6 percent of Americans.

Picture of a BPA free sippy cup
BPA free sippy cup

The Food and Drug Administration has declared BPA safe based on estimates that people consume only small amounts each day from food. However, current research indicates that the average person likely is exposed to a daily dose of BPA that far exceeds the current estimated safe daily intake dose. Human and animal studies suggest that BPA could be related to diabetes, heart disease, liver abnormalities, miscarriage and other reproductive abnormalities, as well as prostate and breast cancer. 

It may be impossible to completely avoid exposure to BPA, however, here are six steps you can take to reduce your family’s exposure:

  • Avoid plastic food containers with recycling label No. 7 — Not all products labeled No. 7 contain BPA, but it is a reasonable guideline. Safer choices are plastics labeled Nos. 1, 2 and 4.
  • Look for BPA-free plastics — Polycarbonate plastics are rigid transparent plastics often used in water bottles, toys and sippy cups. They also leach low levels of BPA into food and liquids. There has been an explosion of BPA-free toys, baby bottles and containers. They may carry a higher price but are worth the extra cost.
  • Avoid heating plastic food containers — Heating plastics in the microwave or storing warm food and drinks in plastic storage containers increases leaching of chemicals. Use ceramic or glass dishware when heating or consuming hot foods and liquids.
  • Eat only fresh or frozen foods — The plastic lining of cans contains BPA; toxic levels of BPA have been found in many canned food products. Foods acidic in nature such as tomato sauce and soup have the highest levels. Rinsing canned foods before heating them may decrease the amount of BPA ingested.
  • Choose powdered infant formula — Like canned foods, the lining on metal portions of formula containers is BPA-based. Tests of liquid formulas by the FDA shows that BPA leaches into the formula of all brands tested.
  • Use a metal water bottle — As discussed above, many hard plastic water bottles contain BPA. Some metal water bottles are lined with a plastic coating that contains BPA. Look for stainless steel bottles that do not have this plastic lining.

— Hillary Roland, ND, naturopathic physician and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, the teaching clinic of Bastyr University.

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