Bisphenol-A (BPA) is its name and disrupting the our hormone function is its game. We should all be aware of what BPA is, the health conditions it’s associated with and where it’s lurking in our environment because this chemical is dangerous and it is found in many of the products we use each and every day.
The health problems linked to BPA are astounding. A mounting body of research shows that BPA is an endocrine disruptor that mimics our hormones, therefore interrupting their normal functioning. This is serious given how much our delicate hormone balance influences our health. Disruption of hormone levels due to BPA have been linked to breast cancer1, prostate cancer2, cardiovascular disease3, diabetes4, obesity5, infertility6, birth defects7, miscarriages8, developmental disorders in children9, premature puberty in young girls10, severe attention deficit disorder11, cognitive and brain development problems, deformations of the body (like our limbs), sexual development problems12-14, and feminizing of males or masculine effects on females.15-17 It seems like a lovely substance, doesn’t it? No doubt the evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would have loved to douse that poisonous apple with a nice shiny layer of BPA. She might have permanently poisoned Snow White if she had.
A new study even shows that BPA negatively affects not just those who eat and touch BPA laden items, but it also affects multiple generations of their children.18 This study, published by the journal Endocrinology, studied trans-generational effects of BPA on mice. One group of mice was fed BPA laden food and another group was fed their regular diets. Behavior was monitored and so was the behavior of three subsequent generations. Genetic testing was also conducted on all of the animals.
Remarkably, the mice that were exposed to BPA in the womb were less social and more isolated than the other group, as was the case for their children and their children’s children. These mice spent less time exploring, playing and engaging in friendly behavior with the other mice. This is not the normal behavior of mice and shows that BPA can influence brain activity for generations. Notably and frighteningly, the BPA exposed mice were exposed to levels of BPA that humans would normally be exposed to via our diets. While mice behavior and human behavior are obviously not the same, mice are a good laboratory model for what could happen to humans. The researchers even likened the behavioral issues they found in the BPA-exposed mice to autistic children and children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
To make matters worse, the same study found that 90 percent of Americans have BPA in their blood. Forget watching a horror movie, all we need to do to get a good scare is learn about the health effects of BPA and its ubiquity in our environment. That is, if we do not educate ourselves on which materials contain it and don’t make efforts to avoid it.
Thankfully, with a bit of education we can steer clear of BPA as easily as a graceful decline of a receipt or the simple renouncement of tin can usage. BPA is found in quite a few unsuspecting places, which is why doing one’s homework really pays off. Your jaw just may drop when you learn how many places BPA can be found, but thankfully there are plenty of alternatives. Education really is power and this has never been truer than in the case of the malicious, microscopic villain that is BPA.
So which products are likely to contain BPA?
- Receipts– these pieces of paper are coated with a BPA-based coating that rubs off onto our fingers and whatever else it comes in contact with.
- Canned food– cans are lined with an epoxy resin that’s made of BPA, so watch out for soups, canned tomato sauces, fruits and vegetables. Glass jars, frozen foods and paper cartons are our best alternatives. One exception: the company Eden Organics produces a line of canned beans that are BPA free. They use oleoresin, which is a natural mixture of an oil and a resin extracted from plants. The can maker, Ball Corporation, says that Eden is the only company to date that makes BPA free cans. More information on their cans is available on the Eden Organics website.
- Avoid contact with plastic– use glass appliances and storage containers rather than plastic tubs to store leftovers. Stainless steel containers are wonderful substitutes for plastic lunch bags and takeout clamshells.
- “BPA-free” plastics are not safe– a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectivesfound that those plastics purported to be safer that those containing BPA were lined with BPA alternatives that could be just as noxious.
- Dental sealants are a BPA warehouse- BPA is the most frequently used dental sealant material and it’s used in composite fillings used to treat cavities. Dental treatments have been linked to social problems in children, leading a slew of pediatricians to advocate the use of other materials. However, this change has yet to manifest itself in safer dental care so our best bet is to brush regularly, floss and visit our dentists for regular cleanings.
- Alcoholic beverages– wine and beer are fermented in BPA-resin lined vats. If you enjoy your fair share of alcoholic drinks, this may just be the motivation you need to eschew that glass of wine or beer. Your hormones will thank you.
- Infant formula and baby bottles– if you thought BPA in alcohol was sad, this one may be even sadder; I believe the worst is when helpless infants are exposed to BPA. We already knew breastfeeding was best for the little ones, but this news provides even more of an incentive to do so. If breastfeeding isn’t possible, glass bottles and un-canned, powdered formula is second best.
- Plastic utensils– alas, BPA is found in almost all plastics, plastic utensils included. Although not possible all the time, bring your own utensils when as much as you can.
- Aluminum soda cans– as if Coca Cola and Pepsi weren’t bad enough on their own, now we know they contain BPA as well as over the top amounts of high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. Stay away, just stay away.
- It’s in your dollar bills– yup, BPA makes its residency on our money because the ink it’s printed on is pure BPA. Other than avoiding touching money, which is impossible for most, our best option is to wash our hands after we exchange the moolah.
There you have it. While completely avoiding BPA is likely impossible, knowing which products contain BPA will help us greatly reduce our exposure. Maybe you and I, and all those we share this article with, can make ourselves part of the ten percent of Americans with undetectable blood BPA levels and help that percentage grow.
1. Lozada KW, Keri RA (2011). Bisphenol A Increases Mammary Cancer Risk in Two Distinct Mouse Models of Breast Cancer Running title: Bisphenol A and mouse mammary cancer risk. Biology of Reproduction Papers in Press. Published on June 2, 2011 as DOI:10.1095/biolreprod.110.090431.
2. Ho S. Tang W. Prins GS, et al.Developmental Exposure to Estradio and Bisphenol-A Increases Susceptibility to Prostate Carcinogenesis and Epigenetically Regulates Phosphodiesterase Type 4 Variant 4. J of Cancer Research.
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17. Lang IA, Galloway TS, Scarlett A, et al. (2008). Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults. J Am Med Assoc, 300:1303-1310.
18. Edwards M, Gatewood JD, Wolstenholme JT, et al. Gestational Exposure to Bisphenol A Produces Transgenerational Changes in Behaviors and Gene Expression. Endocrinology 2012. Published online before print.