Statistics Canada released a report stating 91 percent of Canadians have bisphenol A (BPA) in their bodies, which shows just how prevalent the chemical is in our daily lives. This is the first time Statistics Canada has looked into the extent to which this industrial chemical is absorbed by Canadians exposed to it.
There’s not much question about it – if you’re exposed to it, you’re absorbing it. BPA is almost inescapable in our modern world. The chemical is widely used in the manufacture of things such as hard, clear plastics, the resins used to line cans of food, beverages and infant formula and even as the coating on some cash register receipts. A Harvard University study in 2009 found that people drinking from BPA containing polycarbonate bottles for one week had a two-thirds increase of BPA in their urine. The study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, confirmed that it very easily leaches from containers into food and beverages contained.
So, there’s not much question that you’re exposed to it and Statscan has found those exposed to it absorb it. So what does it do?
Here’s the bad news. It’s been verified in several scientific studies that BPA is a highly toxic endocrine disruptor that affects the body’s hormones. Bisphenol A is xeno-estrogenic, meaning it mimics the natural estrogen in the body. It can, therefore, interfere with reproductive function, cause birth defects and can lead to cardiovascular disease, liver problems, cancer as well as insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. It’s especially harmful to infants and children because it messes with the development of organ tissues and can inhibit proper sexual maturity. A study on mice also found that mothers exposed to BPA had a significantly greater chance of having offspring with asthma. Unsurprising since a study out of Quebec last year found that it damages stem cells in the placenta that nourish the fetus in pregnant women.
The government seems to be stalled on enacting any kind of movement towards getting BPA out of our daily environment. Although they banned the chemical from being used in baby bottles, everything else is still fair game for BPA. It’s up to us, as consumers, to avoid it wherever we can. By refusing to buy products with BPA we send a message to producers that this chemical is affecting their sales. Forget government regulations, this is how we enact change.
So how do we avoid this insidious chemical? Start by not using polycarbonate plastic containers such as water bottles or containers to store food. Look for products that are guaranteed BPA free; even stainless steel water bottles may have a plastic coating or cap that contains BPA. Use glass containers like Pyrex wherever you can.
If you can avoid canned foods, do so. The only company I know that has removed BPA from the linings of their cans are Eden Organics, and this doesn’t apply to their tomatoes. Jars or bottles are a much better choice if you can find this option. This may mean going outside of a typical grocery store to buy your products, but the step is worth it. Emphasize fresh foods or opt for frozen if you can’t find jarred.
Try to minimize the amount of hard plastic you have in your home. This is not an easy thing to do, but there are some places where changes can be made. Food storage containers should be glass, utensils can be wood or metal, cutting boards should be wood and try to get furniture made of natural materials.
If you microwave, never do it in plastic. This is something you should avoid doing even if the plastic is BPA-free as the other chemicals in plastics tend to leach more when heated. Avoid plastic wraps and bags, especially coming into contact with hot food. Some brands are now guaranteed BPA-free, which is obviously a better choice. In fact, anywhere you can’t avoid plastic, make sure it’s BPA-free plastic. Many companies are removing it from their products now due to consumer demand, so try to seek these options out.
The Healthy Foodie is Doug DiPasquale