What is BPA?
BPA is short for bisphenol A, a chemical found in the linings of cans and in many plastic products, including sports bottles, food-storage containers and baby bottles. BPA helps make plastics strong while staying lightweight, and is also used as a coating inside metal food cans.
Why the concern?
Unlike other chemicals, BPA is a synthetic estrogen and mimics the hormone in the body, causing many health related problems. Hundreds of studies have linked BPA to problems ranging from early puberty to breast and prostate cancer. BPA can interfere with the growth and development of infants and children, impair learning and contribute to hyperactivity. Reproductive development disorders such as abnormal ovaries, reduced sperm count and miscarriages have also be associated with BPA. Babies and young children may be particularly vulnerable because they metabolize BPA more slowly than adults.
How are we exposed?
In a 2007 study, the Centers for Disease Control showed that 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies. Because BPA is in many of the product containers we use everyday, the chemical can leach into the food and drink inside, and then into our systems when consumed.
- Canned goods. Nearly all canned goods on the market have an epoxy liner that contains BPA. The chemical has been shown to leach out of the liner and into the food. This includes canned foods like fruits, vegetables, soups and baby formula, and beverages in cans like soda and beer.
- Hard plastic beverage containers. Until several years ago, nearly all sports water bottles, baby bottles, and plastic beverage cups contained BPA. Today BPA-free options are widely available and usually labeled, but some companies still manufacture and sell these products containing BPA. The amount of the chemical that leaches into the beverage increases if the container is worn, scratched or heated.
- Cash register receipts. Many retailers use thermal paper which is coated with a powdered form of BPA. When handled, the BPA can rub off and be absorbed by the skin.
Consumers Union supports a ban on BPA
The scientific evidence is clear that BPA poses serious health risks, especially to children and developing fetuses. Seven U.S. states and Canada ban BPA in some form from children’s food and drink products, and legislation has been introduced in other states and at the national level calling for similar bans. Consumers Union supports action by the Food and Drug Administration, Congress and state legislatures to ban this toxin from all food and beverage containers.
What you can do in the meantime to avoid BPA
Concerned consumers might be able to reduce, though not necessarily eliminate, their dietary exposure to BPA by taking the following steps:
- Choose fresh food whenever possible.
- Consider alternatives to canned food.
- Use glass containers when heating food in microwave ovens.
- Look for water bottles or containers labeled BPA-free.