WTBPA? (or Bisphenol A, What’s that about?)

Bisphenol A. 

What is it?  Where is it?  Is the a risk?  Won’t somebody please think about the children?

This is a toughie.  You may have contact with Bisphenol A (BPA) every day and just not know it.

What is it?  It is a monomer used in many plastic items like; polycarbonates, epoxy, phenolic, ethoxylene, ion-exchange resins, corrosion-resistant unsaturated polyester-styrene resins, reinforced pipes, food packaging materials and vulcanizates intended for use in contact with food and drink.  It is also one of many stabilizer for polyvinyl chloride (PVC.)

That’s a whole lot of BPA going around.  Canada just banned its use in baby bottles back on October 20, 2008.  Which is strange because the FDA, the ECB, the EFSA and the ACC all claim it is harmless as used in humans.  (FDA – US Food and Drug Administration, ECB – European Chemicals Bureau, EFSA – European Food Safety Authority, ACC – American Chemical Council)

However, the NTP (US National Toxicology Program) thinks that there could be a risk.  And they have announced that they will review its decision and re-evaluate the evidence.  And while telling us not to worry, the FDA has formed a BPA Task Force for the review of current research and new information.

That kind of leaves us all in the air, huh?  Canada says it is bad for babies and some groups want to ban it completely.  Not as easy as it sounds.

Have you used anything from the grocery store that is in a can?  Vegetables, aerosol whipped cream, tuna, soda, beer?  Most metal food cans are lined with and epoxy resin.  Remember that long paragraph earlier in this column?  Yep.  They all have BPA in them.  Now can manufacturers are looking into replacements.  They have to, it is a matter of economic survival.  Whether or not BPA is harmless, if the consumers want it gone, it had better go away.  You would pay a nickel more for safe packaging, right?  So even if it is harmless, industry will make more money off your fear.  The practice is very common.  Ever watch the “news?”

So what does BPA allegedly do?  The usual litany of diseases: cancer, diabetes, obesity, lower sperm count, Downs Syndrome, alters development of babies.  Not one good thing in the bunch.

How can we avoid it?  I’m glad you asked.  Stay away from polycarbonate bottles.  BPA can leach out of the plastic if heated, exposed to acids or even just with age.  (By the way, plastic water and soda bottles in the store don’t have BPA in them.)  Don’t cook in plastics.  I use glass on the rare occasion that I use a microwave.  Watch your recycle codes.  The safer choices for use with food are 1 (PETE), 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP).  Try to avoid preparing, storing or eating/drinking from 3 (V), 6 (PS) and 7 (other, except new bio-based plastics that are labelled as such.)

Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave.  Beware of cling wraps for microwave use.  Use alternatives to plastic packaging whenever possible.  And always recycle everything you can!  If you want to know more, drop me a line and I will help as much as I can.

And to think people used to laugh at me when I drank out of a beaker…

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