Bisphenol A is a chemical compound used in the manufacturing of numerous plastic products. Also known as BPA, Bisphenol A is used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. These compounds are then used in creating a wide variety of products including many storage containers and bottles.
Reusable hard-plastic items like water and baby bottles particularly have traces of Bisphenol A. It is also used for lining canned fruits and vegetables as it helps to prevent acidic vegetables and fruit from eroding the container.
BPA has been used for several years in all forms of common food plastics and it was assumed that the levels of BPA contained in these products were well within acceptable limits and would pose no health risks. Since 2008 however, concerns were raised regarding the potential health risks of Bisphenol A and studies were conducted that actually supported concerns of harmful exposure to the chemical compound, especially for infants and children. This prompted the US Food and Drug Administration to pursue in-depth studies to clarify health risks associated with BPA exposure and to strive for a strong regulatory oversight of BPA.
Though the plastics industry still insists that BPA is harmless, recent reports suggest that it has an estrogen-mimicking impact that interferes with hormone levels and cell signalling systems. Long-term exposure to BPA may put you at risk for a gamut of health hazards including breast cancer and uterine fibroids, in women, and prostate cancer and decreased sperm count in men. Infants and children exposed to BPA can also face behavioural problems such as hyperactivity or early onset of puberty.
It is believed that pregnant women, infants and young children are most vulnerable to the harmful effects of BPA, but another study linked BPA exposures to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and liver toxicity- thus greatly expanding the risk groups.
As per scientists, there are at least two mechanisms by which BPA interferes in normal endocrine function. BPA may act as a weak estrogen, binding to the estrogen receptor. Alternatively, BPA can block the impact of stronger natural estrogens, inhibiting estrogen function.
One of the ways to reduce your exposure to BPA is to use the right kind of plastic containers and bottles. As a general rule, hard, clear plastic contains BPA while soft or cloudy plastic does not have it. Most manufacturers now offer good quality baby bottles made without BPA. Care must also be taken while purchasing infant feed formulas. A study by the Environmental Working Group has found that liquid formulas contain more BPA than powdered versions.
Canned juice and sodas typically contain some BPA, especially if they are packed in cans lined with BPA-laden plastic, and plastic bottles with BPA are generally marked with a number 7 recycling code.
It is safer to buy such products in glass bottles. For reusable water bottles, stainless steel is the best option while most recyclable plastic water bottles do not contain BPA and many others will now indicate whether they are BPA Free right on the packaging or the bottle itself.
With the detrimental health effects of BPA now known and understood, it is important to avoid exposure to this chemical compound to keep both yourself and your family healthy.