Earlier this month (February 2014), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released experimental results that suggest that bisphenol A does not affect human health at low doses. What does this mean for consumers?
What is bisphenol A? Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA, is a chemical widely used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are found in some food and drink packaging such as water and baby bottles, compact discs, impact-resistant safety equipment, and medical devices including those used in hospital settings. Epoxy resins are used to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes. BPA can also be found in certain thermal paper products, including some cash register and ATM receipts. Some dental sealants and composites may also contribute to BPA exposure.
How does BPA get into the body? The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. While air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure, BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure. Bisphenol A can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles. BPA can also be found in breast milk.
Why are people concerned about BPA? One reason people may be concerned about BPA is because human exposure to BPA is widespread. The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older. The CDC NHANES data are considered representative of exposures in the U.S. Prior to the February 2014 report, parents may have been concerned because some animal studies reported effects in fetuses and newborns exposed to BPA.
The report issued this month by the FDA and the National Institutes of Health indicates that BPA exposure at low doses (2.5 to 2,700 µg per kg body weight per day) did not produce effects in rat studies. The exposure at even the lowest level was 70 times higher than any realistic human exposure.
What can you do to minimize exposure to BPA? Even though evidence is pointing to the safety of low-dose exposure to BPA, if you are concerned you can make personal choices to reduce exposure:
- Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable but over time it may break down from repeated use at high temperatures.
- Avoid plastic containers with the #7 on the bottom unless they are specifically labeled BPA-free.
- When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot food or liquids.
- Choose fresh or frozen foods over commercially canned foods.
- Use infant formula bottles that are BPA-free and look for toys that are labeled BPA-free.
What about home canning lids? The standard 2-piece canning lids are now BPA free! Jarden Home Brands (Ball Canning) and other major companies removed BPA from canning lids effective 2013.
The National Toxicology program has more information available:
- National Toxicology Program Brief on Bisphenol A
- National Toxicology Program factsheet (consumer ready)
The Public Broadcasting Corporation reported on a story in 2008 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on this issue. Stay food safe and healthy! Barb