Let's talk about bisphenol A.
By now, I suspect all of you have at least heard of bisphenol A, or BPA, and most of you are aware of its toxic legacy. Since 70% of BPA is produced for use in hard, clear plastics, it comes as no surprise that we can find it in everything: medical supplies, water cooler jugs, CDs and DVDs, eyeglass lenses, laptop and smartphone screens, drinking glasses, hockey helmet visors, water bottles, vehicle headlights, kitchen appliances and utensils, baby bottles and water bottles, and scariest of all, the interior lining of tin cans that contaminates the food we eat.
Scientific testing has linked BPA with breast cancer, prostate cancer, learning disabilities, type-2 diabetes, and infertility. But did you know that scientists discovered its hormone-disrupting properties way back in the 1930s, i.e. 80 years ago? I'm not surprised that they initially believed the BPA would remain locked into the plastic or leach out only very slowly. However, it's shocking that they didn't continually test this theory and confirm that in fact, BPA is toxic even at very low levels. There is practically no safe level of exposure.
In 2008, Canada banned the import, sale, and advertising of baby bottles containing BPA. Two years later, BPA was placed on the Canadian Toxic Substances List, making Canada first in the world to declare the chemical as toxic. This is a great start, but we're not safe just yet. Rick Smith, who wrote the chapter on BPA, suggests the following:
- When puzzling over the small recycling numbers on the bottom of plastic containers, remember this mantra: 4, 5, 1, and 2; all the rest are bad for you.
- Find alternative uses for plastic baby bottles and replace them with glass ones.
- Eat fresh or frozen food or food stored in glass bottles instead of canned foods, especially for food high in acidity like tomatoes.
- Avoid putting plastic containers in the microwave, and if using cling wrap, keep it out of direct contact with the food.
- Use cloth or canvas bags instead of plastic bags for shopping.
Please share any other tips for avoiding BPA in the comments section below! This post marks the end of the Tuesday Toxin Talk series on my blog, as I have written about all seven of the nasty chemicals covered in Slow Death by Rubber Duck. I hope these posts have been as useful to you as they were to me while researching and writing them. Some days I wish I didn't know how dangerous everyday objects are, but mostly I'm glad to be aware of the threats and ways to avoid them.
Image of chemical structure of bisphenol A sourced from Wikimedia Commons.
Photo of BPA-free water bottles used under Creative Commons from ZRecs (flickr).