So, I don't know about you but I always thought hard plastic was safe. Turns out, I was wrong and I think it's time to get rid of my pretty pink Nalgene bottle and stop drinking from the water cooler!
Hard plastic containers, including my Nalgene bottle, water cooler bottles, toddler sippy cups and food storage containers, are made of polycarbonate that is composed of BPA- Bisphenol A. The epoxy resin that lines the inside of cans (including soda cans) also contains BPA.
BPA has become controversial lately because it is an “endocrine (hormone) disruptor” and mimics estrogen. Some scientists say that it’s the largest volume hormone-disrupting chemical in commerce. Various scientific panels have met but have come up with conflicting results.
The first panel, composed mostly of researchers that studied BPA in animals, expressed concern that these animals exposed to low BPA levels experienced adverse effects and for humans, this could mean increased rates of breast and prostate cancer, early onset puberty in girls, type 2 diabetes, obesity, ADD, a decline in semen quality, urogenital abnormalities and even schizophrenia.
However, the second panel of scientists that, for the most part, had not studied BPA, disagreed. They pointed out that the first panel used studies where animals were injected with BPA and, according to them, that’s not how humans are exposed to it. However, Panel A scientists countered and said that the amount of BPA in the animals’ blood was the same whether they were injected of fed BPA.
Both panels did agree that young animals exposed to BPA in the womb or soon after showed abnormal behaviour and abnormal changes in brain cells and receptors, but the effect on humans is still unknown.
What are government agencies doing?
Health Canada is currently assessing BPA and its report should be out end of May.
The FDA (American) released a statement in January 2008. Part of it states that :
The Agency is aware of several reports stating that BPA has estrogen-like activity. However, there are other reports that appear to dispute any reason to expect harm at the low exposures that humans experience. Considering the low dietary exposure and the fact that BPA had not demonstrated adverse effects when consumed by animals in amounts of much higher (orders of magnitude) than humans would consume, FDA sees no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict the uses now authorized. Our conclusion is based on our ongoing review of all available data. We will continue to monitor data on BPA to determine if its use would raise a safety concern
The American National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institute of Health, is going to release its BPA report in the Spring.
In Dec 2007, Mountain Equipment Coop, a leading seller of Nalgene bottles, pulled the bottles from their shelves due to the rising concern. Patagonia also stopped selling plastic water bottles.
Whole Foods Markets stopped selling baby plastic bottles.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends that, to play it safe, pregnant women and breastfeeding women, infants, young children and adolescents should try to avoid BPA.
How do you avoid BPA?
Good question. Close to 100% of the exposure comes from water and food.
Check the bottom of your containers. If it has the recycling No. 7, it’s made of polycarbonate and has the highest risk of leaching BPA. Confusingly though, not all No.7 plastics contain BPA and not all BPA-containing containers have the No. 7!
You’re most likely to find BPA in Nalgene reusable water bottles, the linings of canned foods (including baby formula cans- another reason to breastfeed!) and soda cans, baby bottles and toddler sippy cups. So, avoid these!
As much as possible, store and microwave your food in glass, porcelain or stainless steel dishes and containers.
Don’t dishwash polycarbonate plastic containers because this could release BPA.
Replace canned foods with fresh foods or foods packed in boxes.
Some companies are using BPA alternatives- Eden Foods have no BPA in their can linings. A few companies sell BPA-free baby bottles (if you don’t want to use glass ones) : newbornfree.com , thinkbabybottles.com , greentogrow.com , shopbabylife.com .
Hard questions about hard plastic. Nutrition Action Newsletter, Apil 2008. Centre for Science in the Public Interest.