What's all of the BPA buzz about?

My friend Erin was the first to tell me about BPA. I think it was mentioned in a casual conversation about healthier choices. She said something along the lines of, "I've been trying to find cans without BPA..." And I'm sure I thought something along the lines of, "BP...what? What are you talking about? And cans? What's wrong with cans?"

A lot of conversations about healthier choices with our dear friend Erin usually start this way. She has always been ahead of the rest of us (we all freely admit it) when it comes to being informed about and choosing to make healthier choices. Her understanding of BPA and why it's bad for us was no exception. I don't remember all of what was discussed during our BPA conversation, but I do know if Erin says to stay away from it, well that was exactly what I was going to do.

Maybe you've heard about BPA or maybe you're totally clueless like I was. Either way, here's a little cheat sheet to make it a little easier to understand.

What is BPA?

From Medical News Today: "Bisphenol A, often known as BPA is a chemical found in hard plastics and the coatings of food and drinks cans which can behave in a similar way to estrogen and other hormones in the human body. BPA is used to make many products, including water bottles, baby bottles, dental fillings and sealants, dental devices, medical devices, eyeglass lenses, DVDs and CDs, household electronic and sports equipment. BPA can also be found in epoxy resins which is used as coatings inside food and drinks cans."

Why is BPA bad for me?

Some studies done in animals have shown BPA to be a endocrine disrupter, effects on the behavior babies and young children, possible effects on the brain, cancer risk from exposure, heart problems, and possible connections to obesity, diabetes, and ADHD. Here's a great article that I'm pretty sure Erin sent me. She's good like that. 

How does BPA get into my body?

According the the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, "The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure. Bisphenol A can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles."

If the primary source of exposure is what I'm eating out of, like cans and water bottles, how do I avoid it?

Manufacturers are getting better about creating BPA-free products. Look for stickers on baby and water bottles that say "BPA-free." Good thing to remember: Plastics that are marked with a 3 or 7 recycle code may be made with BPA. Take the time to throw out your questionable water bottles and replace them with BPA-free bottles, or better yet with glass ones that are perfect for adding essential oils. (Side note: never add essential oils to plastic bottles, BPA-free or otherwise.)

Refraining from eating foods stored in cans would be ideal, but not all that practical sometimes. Start checking the labels. Look for cans that say, "Non-BPA Lining." When I first found out about BPA, the only place I could find BPA-free cans was at Whole Foods. Now I am able to find some at my local grocery store chain. For example, one of the cans in the picture above is Rotel, a staple in the Freeman household. (You just can't make decent queso without it.) I was so excited to see that their cans are BPA-free. They are out there, you just have to look.

What have you done to reduce BPA in your house?

  • I have gotten rid of all of our plastic food containers. I purchased this Pyrex set that are glass with BPA-free lids.
  • All of our water bottles are primarily glass or metal, with a few plastic BPA-free. Our favorites are Swell and Hydro Flask. I love my glass water bottle from Lifefactory, a company that also make glass baby bottles and stemless wine glasses that we love.
  • I am getting better and better about paying attention to the canned foods that I buy, trying my best to buy only BPA-free cans. It isn't always possible. Sometimes it just is what it is. (The tuna I just had for lunch might have been wild caught and dolphin safe but was not BPA-free.) But knowing what I know, I have stopped buying as many canned foods as I did before. Once you know you can't unknow...

But I've been eating out of cans lined with BPA for decades!

The good news is that a study done by the Breast Cancer Fund found that living off of a fresh food diet for three days significantly reduced the levels of BPA in both children and adults. Co-author Connie Engel, program coordinator with Breast Cancer Fund, said, "The study should serve as a wake-up call to industry and government to enact big-picture solutions that eliminate harmful chemicals from food packaging and protect public health."

Yeah, what Connie said.

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