What is BPA? Understanding Bisphenol A
Nothing is scarier than learning the containers we pack with our children's lunch, the bottles we drink our water from, or the tupperware we store leftovers in, could be leeching harmful chemicals into our foods. We depend on our governmental organizations to protect us and our families from harmful chemicals and when they fail, or systematically leave information and research out of the studies, it leaves us unable to protect our family and ourselves. There has been a lot of controversy, in the recent years, concerning bisphenol A and the adverse health effects on humans, but a lot of people still do not understand what exactly BPA is and how to avoid it.
History of Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Aleksandr Dianin, a Russian chemist, discovered Bisphenol A (BPA) in 1891.
- Charles Edward Dodds recognized BPA as an artificial estrogen, in the early 1930s.
- BPA was (1) used to enhance the cattle and poultry growth and (2) used as an estrogen replacement and later was replaced by diethylstilbestrol (DES) [which was later found to cause rare vaginal tumors in girls and women exposed to the drug in utero]
- BPA has been used since the 1950s to harden polycarbonate plastics and to make epoxy resin, and in the lining of food and beverage containers.
- Recent studies have concluded several health issues are connected between the exposure of BPA during pregnancy and during development.
- Canada's department of the environment declared BPA to be a 'toxic substance' but research is ongoing and there is still debate over whether BPA should be banned or not
Potential Health Effects of Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A has been classified an endocrine disrupter because it mimics estrogen, a natural hormone in the body, it can trick the body by stimulating reactions which are unnecessary and potentially harmful. Several studies have linked bisphenol A (BPA) to:
- greater incidence of heart disease
- liver abnormalities in adults
- linked to brain/hormone development in fetuses and young children
- has been linked, recently, to the promotion of the human breast cancer cell growth
- decrease sperm count
- cause erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in men
There have been various studies have shown bisphenol A leeches from plastics and resins when they are exposed to high temperatures (commonly, because of, microwave ovens, dishwashers and, at times, direct sunlight). Due to the fact bisphenol A is used in so many common products, such as:
- baby bottles
- reusable water bottles
- microwaveable containers
- protective coating inside most food and drink cans
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Food Safety Authority, as well as, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, maintain the impossibility of the public experiencing an unsafe level of BPA exposure in their daily lives. This controversial conclusion, especially with several recent studies evidencing the detrimental health effects of bisphenol A. Several organizations, including numerous parental based groups, have cited the EPAs prior safety threshold on BPA was founded on archaic data, some which have not been updated ever.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found bisphenol A present in the urine of 93% of those tested, but found many Americans are exposed to BPA within the 'safety' threshold set by the EPA. Unfortunately, this has only exacerbated concerns from the public concerning the levels of BPA they have been exposed to, especially since the CDC revealed children are more to BPA than teenagers. Adults had the lowest concentration of BPA in their systems of the three potential decade divisions, with the study.
Recently, the National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services have concluded there is reason to be concerned BPA can cause developmental problems in children's brains and hormonal systems. This has led several companies to eliminate BPA from the list of chemicals used to manufacture their products, especially those which are used to store food and beverages.
Chemicals in our Plastics
BPA Free Baby Products, from Boon Inc
BPA Exposure in Fetal and Child Development
Unlike adults, children are more susceptible to BPA exposure; several studies found a higher concentration of the chemical compound in their urine, than their older counterparts. Adults are able to eliminate BPA through the detoxification process of the liver. Unfortunately, this process is not fully developed in infants and children, so BPA continues to reside in their systems longer and, as a result, is absorbed by their bodies. Some studies have shown due to food consumption children and infants also have a higher percentage of exposures to BPA, due to several of their meals being served from plastic containers and on plastic instruments, are higher than adults.
Fetuses and children exposed to BPA from an early stage are at risk of secondary sexual developmental changes, brain and behavioural changes and several immune disorders. It has been proven that infants fed with liquid formula are some of the most exposed to BPA, followed closely by infants fed forumla through (or from) polycarbonate bottles. In Canada alone, BPA has been traced in infant liquid formula in concentrations between .48 nanograms to 11 grams, though has been rarely traced in powdered forumla. Since breast milk is not always an option for infants, many governmental organizations believe the optimal nutrition liquid baby formula provides outweigh the potential risk of BPA.
Mothers have been warned that by limiting their own exposure to BPA throughout their pregnancy significantly lowers their chances of passing the chemical onto the fetus. According to a study done on 244 mothers, exposure to BPA before birth could have a direct effect on the behaviour of their daughters, presenting around age 3. Those with mothers containing high levels of BPA in their urine during pregnancy scored poorly on tests concerning anxiety and hyperactivity, although all in the normal range, for every "10-increase in the BPA of the mother, the girls scored at least six points lower on the tests".
Though, it has been noted in several studies a mothers exposure to BPA can continue to affect their infant or child through the transfer of BPA in their breast milk.
Estimated Daily BPA Intake, ug/kg/day
Infant (0-6 months) forumla-fed
Infant (0-6 months) breast-fed
Infant (6-12 months)
Child (1.5-6 years)
BPA Free Products and Companies
Amidst the controversy, several companies have made an effort to reformulate their products and begin manufacturing them as 'BPA free', such as:
- Nalg Nunc International (the makers of Nalgene water bottles)
- BOON INC. (several innovative products for babies and toddlers)
- Lock n Lock Containers (food storage containers, both glass and plastic)
- SIGG (premium reusable aluminum water bottles)
- Campbells Soup
- Vapur (bottles toted as the 'anti-bottle', reusable and collapsible water pouches)