Earth Day 2012: Toxic BPA

At the end of March, the FDA ruled that the current levels of bisphenol A (BPA) found in food packaging and plastic dishes is at a safe limit and does not need to be reduced or eliminated. This ruling followed a three-year battle after The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) petitioned the FDA to ban BPA in food packaging and related products.

The FDA’s decision came when studies, funded by the FDA and food industry leaders, concluded that the exposure to BPA and endocrine disruptors in food packaging was “minute.”

Previous studies, funded by more objective parties, have revealed that 90 percent of the American population is exposed to BPA at a level 125 times greater than the level recommended as safe. Of course, when you examine just how many products use BPA, it is easy to see how and why excessive exposure occurs.

Why is BPA dangerous? BPA is an organic compound that can mimic hormones inside the human body. This chemical is known endocrine disruptor, meaning it is capable of binding to receptors, particularly estrogen receptors, and causing adverse conditions, such as infertility, obesity, certain cancers and developmental disorders in babies and children.

What products contain BPA? Unfortunately, BPA is found in many everyday products.  Canned foods, the lining of cans of infant formula, plastic water bottles (reusable and disposable), and certain plastic dishes and cups.  Even devices used by your doctor and dentist during certain exams may contain BPA. BPA has also been traced in thermal paper, commonly used in receipts.

How can you avoid BPA? Until regulations change, it is difficult to avoid BPA entirely.  You can minimize your exposure by switching to metal or glass water bottles, if you prefer plastic, make sure it is labeled as “BPA free.” Avoid touching thermal receipts – like those dispensed from “pay at the pump” gas stations and many retailers. Avoid canned food – choose fresh or frozen. Most importantly, stay away from canned infant formulas, babies are the most susceptible to harm from “minute” amounts of BPA.

BPA is not only harmful to your health, but to the health of the earth. Exposure has been linked to abnormal growths in animals. Avoid plastic products with the recycle codes 3, 6 or 7 in the triangle on the bottom of the container – these are the most likely to contain higher quantities of BPA.

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