Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in many rigid plastics, the lining of food cans, and certain other products. It’s also a hormone disruptor. Hormone disruptors can affect how estrogen and other hormones act in the body, by blocking them or mimicking them. Because estrogen can make hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer develop and grow, many women choose to limit their exposure to these chemicals. Everyone is exposed to some level of BPA because it’s in so many everyday products. The concern is that this low-level exposure can add up over a lifetime.
Here’s how you can reduce your exposure:
Avoid bottles with a 7 recycling symbol on them. BPA is in all major brands of 3- and 5-gallon jugs for water coolers. BPA also may be in refillable water bottles and other rigid polycarbonate plastic bottles. Not every bottle with a recycling symbol 7 contains BPA, but you don’t know unless the label specifically says it doesn’t. If BPA is in the plastic, it can leach out into the liquid in the container. The older and more scratched up the bottle is, the more BPA leaches over the years. Hot beverages boost the leaching even more. Never put hot liquids into plastic bottles and don’t leave plastic bottles in the sun. Replace scratched plastic bottles and clean all plastic gently.
Avoid heating or cooking in plastics — even if they say “microwavable.” Researchers found BPA leaching from all “microwave safe” products they tested. Unfortunately, this included plastics that said “BPA-free” with recycling numbers other than 7, including frozen food trays, soup containers, and plastic baby food packages. “Microwave safe” DOES NOT mean that the plastic components won’t leach. It only means the container itself can withstand the microwave without melting. Your safest option? Don’t heat any plastic container or wrap. Even better, don’t buy these items. Only use glass and ceramic containers that are made for use in the microwave. A paper plate or bowl is another option. Cover with a cloth napkin, paper towel, glass or ceramic lid or plate.
Eat canned foods in moderation and look for BPA-free cans. BPA is used in the linings of canned food and drinks to keep the metallic taste away from the food and to protect against rusting and corrosion of the can. Studies show that food from cans do contain varying amounts of BPA. Food may account for most of kids’ BPA exposure (except for bottle-fed babies, who may be exposed from polycarbonate bottles). A few companies are starting to use BPA-free cans. Eden Foods has long used BPA-free cans for its beans and is starting to use them for other products. Several canned fish companies use BPA-free cans, including Vital Choice, Wild Planet, and Henry & Lisa’s. There are many companies that supposedly use BPA-free cans, but don’t say so on the label. Contact the company to find out. Alternatively, try to buy your food fresh, dried, in bags, or glass containers.
Handle sales receipts less frequently. BPA is in the coating of many sales receipts, especially those that have to be signed. This may be a bigger source of BPA exposure than many of the food sources. Still, it’s hard to avoid receipts. If possible, don’t take a receipt for things that you can’t return (gasoline, for example) or when you’re buying things that you’re sure you won’t have to return. If it makes sense for you, you may want to pay cash or write a check for your purchases rather than using a credit card so you don’t have to sign the receipt. Wash your hands after handling receipts.
Be aware that resin-based dental sealants and composite fillings release BPA. BPA is released in the hours immediately after these dental procedures, but the amount absorbed is unclear.
Be wary of “shown-to-be-safe” messages. Though bottled water delivery companies, producers of plastic food containers, and other groups put messages on their websites saying BPA is safe, this message is at odds with the reconsideration of its safety going on in the United States and around the world. Plus, the safety of bottled water is mostly unregulated. In general, tap water is much more carefully regulated. Right now most bottled water comes in a #1 plastic bottle, which is believed to be safer than the #7 bottle. But a safer bet and one that’s better for the environment is to drink tap water from a glass cup and use a metal water bottle to carry your water around.