If you’ve purchased a water bottle in recent history, you’ve probably noticed large shiny stickers adorning the plastic bottles as well as many glass water bottle options. These stickers usually say “BPA Free”. But what is BPA and what has BPA?
What is BPA? What Has BPA?
BPA is short for bisephonal A, a prime ingredient used to create plastics. BPA isn’t a new kid on the block — it’s been used for more than 100 years as a common ingredient in everything from water bottles to canned goods. BPAs can also be found in many different household items — baby bottles, tupper ware, cooking utensils, sippy cups and formula packaging, to name a few.
You can even find BPAs in things that you don’t eat or use to eat — contact lenses, pipes, plastic tableware and CDs to name a few.
You can be exposed to BPAs through daily use of plastic products. However, BPA becomes even more easily transferable into your body when the plastic is exposed to heat or long-time use, such as that coming from a dishwasher or microwave.
Is BPA Dangerous?
Starting in the 1930s, disturbing science surrounding BPAs came to light. For example, a study was published in 1936 linking BPA and excess estrogen together. In the study, female mice exposed to BPA in utero later had defects to their reproductive organs.
Estrogen is a normal hormone found in both males and females, but too much estrogen can lead to many complications and health effects for women including cancer, infertility, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. High estrogen has negative effects on men’s health too including low sperm count, weight gain, and more. Therefore, regularly consuming a chemical that your body mistakes for estrogen can be bad news, regardless of your sex.
These discoveries became even more alarming in the early 2000s when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention performed urinalysis to determine what chemicals humans are regularly exposed to. They collected samples from over 2000 Americans and found that almost every single sample contained measurable levels of BPA. This indicated that most Americans are being exposed to BPAs, and pretty regularly at that. Even scarier? These levels were highest in children and infants.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences named BPA as an endocrine disruptor in the late 2000s, leading many people to shy away from using BPAs. However, the FDA did and does still maintain that BPA is safe to use as an ingredient in plastic.
“Based on FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging,” the FDA says. “People are exposed to low levels of BPA because, like many packaging components, very small amounts of BPA may migrate from the food packaging into foods or beverages. Studies pursued by FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) have shown no effects of BPA from low-dose exposure.”
Although the FDA endorses BPA use, they did pass laws discontinuing the use of BPAs in formula packaging and baby bottles in 2012.
Should I Avoid BPAs?
The jury is out on whether or not humans should avoid BPAs all together. According to the CDC, “Human health effects from BPA at low environmental exposures are unknown. BPA has been shown to affect the reproductive systems of laboratory animals. More research is needed to understand the human health effects of exposure to BPA.”
The FDA, arguably the main authority on food and food packaging, supports BPA as a safe ingredient in plastic.
At FitnessHQ, we encourage critical thinking, meaning it’s up to you to decide if the evidence against BPA is compelling enough to eliminate it from your life. If plastics containing BPA make you nervous, there are a few things you can do.
Most plastics containing BPA are marked with the number 7. You can start with avoiding those — think bottles of water and plastic wrapping on food, but don’t forget to check food container liners as well.
If you do HAVE to use plastics containing BPA, avoid washing them in the dishwasher, heating up your food in them, or otherwise exposing them to high levels of heat and stress. This includes pallets of beverages that may have been left in a hot warehouse or anything you’ve left in a warm car for an extended period of time.
Many stores carry “BPA-free” plastics, but there is some evidence to indicate that those plastics may still pose a risk to your health. Instead, investigate glass and ceramic alternatives whenever possible — try replacing your water bottle with a glass bottle and using ceramics to cook and store your food in.