Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical widely used in common plastic products, such as baby bottles, children's toys, and the linings of most food and beverage cans. Many scientific studies-including the largest study of BPA ever conducted on humans-have found links between BPA and serious health problems, from heart disease, diabetes, and liver abnormalities in adults to developmental problems in the brains and hormonal systems of children. Recent studies have documented negative health consequences, while others find no ill effects. Endocrine disruptors are notoriously difficult to study, as they may be more dangerous at very low doses than at higher doses.
Depending on your tolerance for risk, you might want to minimize your exposure to BPA. Given the wide use of BPA in so many products we encounter every day, it is probably impossible to completely eliminate your exposure to this potentially harmful chemical. Still, you can lower your exposure-and your risk of possible health problems associated with BPA-by taking a few simple precautions.
In 2007, the Environmental Working Group hired an independent laboratory to conduct an analysis of BPA in many different canned foods and beverages. The study found that the amount of BPA in canned food varies widely. Chicken soup, infant formula, and ravioli had the highest concentrations of BPA, for example, while condensed milk, soda, and canned fruit contained much less of the chemical.
Here are a few tips to help you lower your exposure to BPA.
Eat Fewer Canned Foods
The easiest way to lower your intake of BPA is to stop eating so many foods that come into contact with the chemical. Eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, which usually have more nutrients and fewer preservatives than canned foods, and taste better, too.
Choose Cardboard and Glass Containers Over Cans
Highly acidic foods, such as tomato sauce and canned pasta, leach more BPA from the lining of cans, so it's best to choose brands that come in glass containers. Soups, juices, and other foods packaged in cardboard cartons made of layers of aluminum and polyethylene plastic (labeled with a number 2 recycling code) are safer than cans with plastic linings containing BPA.
Do Not Microwave Polycarbonate Plastic Food Containers
Polycarbonate plastic, which is used in packaging for many microwaveable foods, may break down at high temperatures and release BPA. Although manufacturers are not required to say whether a product contains BPA, polycarbonate containers that do are usually marked with a number 7 recycling code on the bottom of the package.
Choose Plastic or Glass Bottles for Beverages
Canned juice and soda often contain some BPA, especially if they come in cans lined with BPA-laden plastic. Glass or plastic bottles are safer choices. For portable water bottles, glass and stainless steel are best, but most recyclable plastic water bottles do not contain BPA. Plastic bottles with BPA are usually marked with a number 7 recycling code.
Turn Down the Heat
To avoid BPA in your hot foods and liquids, switch to glass or porcelain containers, or stainless steel containers without plastic liners.
Use Baby Bottles That Are BPA-Free
As a general rule, hard, clear plastic contains BPA while soft or cloudy plastic does not. Most major manufacturers now offer baby bottles made without BPA. However, a recent study published in the journal Endocrinology evaluated an alternative plastic compound (BPS) used in products labeled as BPA-free, and unfortunately, it also was found to create significant hormonal disruptions in a fish species. Further studies are needed to determine how concerned we should be for the effects on human health.
Use Powdered Infant Formula Instead of Pre-mixed Liquid
A study by the Environmental Working Group found that liquid formulas contain more BPA than powdered versions.
The fewer canned foods and beverages you consume, the less your exposure to BPA, but you don't have to cut out canned foods altogether to reduce your exposure and lower your potential health risks. In addition to eating less canned food overall, limit your intake of canned foods that are high in BPA.