Thursday, February 4, 2010

BPA: What it is. What it does. What to do.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical compound that is used in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics have unique qualities including toughness, clarity, resistant to high heat and electricity. Because of these characteristics, it is used in products ranging from water bottles, baby bottles, plastic drinking cups, and food storage containers, to computer parts. The resins are used in linings of some metal food and beverage cans (to 'protect' the food from the metal) and even dental sealants. Some researchers believe that it may be used in products that we aren't even aware of due to the fact that the BPA levels in some research participants is much higher than the amounts estimated to be safe.

Turns out that this compound, which has been used for over 40 years, is banned in many countries, including Canada, and Japanese manufacturers voluntarily removed it from their products a decade ago. Until very recently, the FDA has been sitting on the fence but leaning towards industry here declaring studies have shown very little harm to humans. Through additional research, some of which has been funded by Recovery funds, it is more clear than ever that BPA is causing problems by disrupting the endocrine system.

BPA may contribute to obesity, lead to fertility problems, breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and liver abnormalities. The National Toxicology Program has declared that they have "some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A." While they have so far, found negligible concern about the effects on adults, they do acknowledge that exposure is widespread. Thus, a large amount of Recovery Act funds (we may debate this now, or later, if you'd like) have been allocated to further research the effects of BPA on people.

While Congress has asked companies to voluntarily end their use of BPA, very few have done so. Unfortunately, the FDA does not have the authority to determine and regulate levels of BPA in products as of yet, so the Congress must pass legislation providing them with that authority. In addition to Congress, some individual states are working on bills to ban the chemical.

So, what can you do to avoid BPA until we know more and companies stop using BPA?
  • Purchase stainless steel or aluminum water bottles (KleanKanteen, Sigg [now bpa free], watergeeks, Camelback and others have great options for sport & every day use)
  • Make sure the bottles that come with your hydration pack are BPA free
  • Purchase baby bottles that are BPA free
  • Avoid canned food as much as possible (opt for fresh or frozen instead)
  • Do not heat food in plastic containers
  • Do not put plastic containers in the dishwasher
  • Store food in glass, porcelain, or stainless steel
Items with BPA will have one of these logos (or something similar) on the bottom. If there is no logo, go ahead and assume BPA is present.

On a completely different topic, a woman got on the machine next to me at the gym this morning smelling like she had just put out a cigarette before she came in. At 5:30am, it actually made me feel a little nauseous. Have you had to deal with this before? You know, I want everyone to be healthy and fit, but that also includes not smoking. Ever since I was in college and would see students smoking while riding their bikes to school, I have just found the concept of smoking and exercising (either at the same time or not) to be at complete odds with each other. Am I alone in this?


Jamoosh said...

There is nothing worse than running a race and passing by someone smoking right next to the course.

Jocelyn said...

Great post! Very informative!

Barbara said...

One of my Day Care Moms is a Special Ed administrator. At a County wide meeting last week , new research was discussed. There are many types of autism and they're beginning to see high levels of BPA in some autistic kids . She also said the rise in cases corresponds with the rise in using plastic bottles. Baby's bottles should NEVER be heated in the microwave. I thought that was obvious , but guess not. Again , there are many different types and this is new research. Makes sense doesn't it ? Here's hoping we go back to glass bottles ,

Heather @ Side of Sneakers said...

Great info!! I used to see people smoking outside my school gym...umm I don't get it?!

Danielle (Coffee Run) said...

Thanks for the info. on BPA! I've always known to avoid it but I didn't really understand why. Yikes- now I know

I know what you mean about smoking +'s odd. When I go for a run, I'll usually pass by 1 or 2 people blowing smoke in my direction. Makes me nauseous :/

SueMac said...

Thanks for the info. Any effects on brain or behavior is enough for it to be banned... don't you think? Working in a school, perhaps that's what's wrong with all these kids! Second, I used to be a big smoker..... exercise helps me never smoke again. Perhaps the girl next to you is trying to quit and will realize exercise is her key to stop.

Alisa said...

I didn't actually know what the hype about BPA was until now. Thanks for the information.

Yes I've had the cigarette smoke issue. It's disgusting. If it's in a situation where I can move, I move.

Julie said...

Hi Lisa,
Great information...good to know. Yuck, cigarette smoke leaves such a gross smell! I hate it and would of been very annoyed too!

TallGuySurfing said...

I work in real estate. I have a customer right now who's house reeks of cigarette smoke. I dread visiting because even if I'm in the house for 30 seconds I can smell it on my clothes for the rest of the day. I hate cigarettes!

Tricia said...

Great post!

And I'm coming by on behalf of the Tall Mom on the Run Club. Don't forget to update your miles on the club spreadsheet and keep passing the blogging love around to other club members. Happy running!

Filcek Family said...

My cousin, Todd, says he will walk out of his way to walk through cigarette smoke because he likes it (wierd) but he won't smoke himself because he hates the thought of undoing all the work he does (read exercise!) to maintain a healthy body. Funny, eh?

Feeling Fit With Dana said...

Great post. I'm trying to avoid BPA as much as I can. I can't understand the exercise and smoking thing either and you are right, it makes me feel sick. Thanks for stopping by my blog today!

Thomas said...

Great info. BPA is also used to line metal food and drink cans. So avoid both plastic bottled water and canned foods. Help saves the enviroment too :)

Jenn said...

I have the worst time with cigarette smoke. I don't think anyone thinks smoking and exercise go hand in hand. On the other hand, I suppose it is better to exercise if you are a smoker than to sit on the couch.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I just found your blog though 20SB. This is a great post. You might like another blog I read - He discusses a lot of issues and way to be more environmentally friendly.

I'm right there with you on the smoking/exercise comment, and I totally want to gag when someone comes into the gym smelling like smoke while I'm running.

LisaatEWG said...

Lisa, In case you or your readers are interested in a long-term solution to BPA and the many other untested chemicals in our everyday products, EWG is working hard to reform the very broken Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in Congress and pass the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. We have good info on how to get involved here: It'd create a system to ensure *all* chemicals are safe, because trying to take them out one by one would take way too long! Great work spreading the word about BPA. Best, Lisa Frack, EWG