he Senate and House of Representatives are both proposing a new food safety bill. The Ban Poisonous Additives Act is specifically targeting Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical widely used in plastic bottles and cans and associated with cancer, infertility, and fetal development issues.
Once it enters the body, BPA behaves like the hormone estrogen. It disturbs the normal operation of certain genes and is harmful even at very low doses, such as those found in plastic bottles and cans.
BPA has been sold since the 1940s and starting in the 1960s has been lining the insides of cans to extend shelf life. As recently as 2008, 22 billion cans for food and more than 100 billion cans for beer and soft drinks were produced using BPA.
BPA Toxicity risks include hyperactivity, learning disabilities, brain damage, and immune deficiencies. Over 40 studies have found adverse health effects in rats given less than one hundredth of the amount an average person is exposed to over the course of a lifetime.
Over 200 animal studies have linked BPA consumption, in tiny amounts, to a host of reproductive problems, brain damage, immune deficiencies, metabolic abnormalities, and behavioral oddities like hyperactivity, learning deficits and reduced maternal willingness to nurse offspring.
The FDA has zigzagged on BPA safety. In August 2008 it deemed BPA safe. However, in December 2008, the FDA’s own advisory board accused the FDA of weighing 2 industry-backed studies much more heavily than the hundreds of other independent studies. The FDA’s excuse: all of the other studies did not meet the FDA’s guidelines for determining safety for human consumption, did not provide raw data, and a host of other “reasons”. In 2012, the FDA finally banned BPA in baby bottles, but this was a lame move as all manufacturers had already voluntarily removed BPA by that time. Last year, California’s Environmental Protection Agency began listing BPA as a reproductive hazard (“known to the State of California” as hazardous to health).
The new bill will be challenging to pass, and even more challenging to implement. The industry has yet to find a reliable cheap solution to replace BPA.
In the meantime, here are some practical tips to reduce your family’s BPA exposure:
- When possible, choose fresh products instead of canned
- Drink tap water instead of bottled water
- Use a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle
- Drink beverages such as beer from glass bottles instead of cans
- Don’t use polycarbonate plastics (marked with a #7 PC) for storing food or beverages
- Choose frozen vegetables and soups and broth that come in glass jars or in aseptic “brick” cartons, as these containers are BPA-free
- Avoid canned beverages, foods and soups, especially if pregnant or feeding young children.