Turning Away From BPA – What Is It? Why And How It Should Be Avoided.
I find it pretty overwhelming to think about how many Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) Isabella and I are exposed to on an everyday basis. Knowing that every little change I make to reduce our exposure to EDCs today makes a huge impact on our total exposure over time, I’m determined to make baby steps in the right direction.
In my next few posts I’m going to focus on one common EDC at a time and look at what they are, where they are, what the actual scientific studies show as to why I should avoid it and what steps I can make in daily life to avoid them. I’ll keep you updated as to how we get on. 🙂 Maybe you too can join us on the journey. Hopefully by breaking it down into manageable chunks, we can shift from an overwhelmed state to one of understanding and begin to limit our daily EDC exposure together.
I’m going to start with BPA – it’s the EDC we hear most about – mainly because all our reusable water bottles and plastic containers now declare that they don’t contain it! These disclaimers are there for a very good reason – the evidence for BPA’s harmful effects continues to mount – we’ll get to that shortly. Unfortunately, there are many other sources of BPA out there which companies have made no move to tell us about. It’s therefore important we do our own research – my information comes from the linked World Health Organisation report.
Here are the essential facts:
What is BPA?
BPA’s full name is Bisphenol A. It is an industrial chemical used mainly in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. BPA breaks down easily and it’s potential to build up in the body is low… however there are so many sources of it, that it’s thought our exposure to it could be pretty much continuous!
Sources of BPA:
BPA is in polycarbonate plastics which are used in reusable food and drink containers – baby, milk and water bottles, disposable cutlery, toys and water pipes. It is also present in epoxy resins which line the walls of cans and lids of glass jars and bottles for food and beverages. BPA is also found in PVC plastic, recycled and thermal paper (which are what receipts are made from), food packaging, dental sealants, a variety of plastics, resins and cosmetics.
How do we actually get exposed to BPA?
Studies have shown that BPA leaches easily into it’s surroundings – unfortunately that means that it’s in a lot of our food and drinks because BPA is in packaging, food containers, water bottles and cans! BPA can also make its way into the dust in our homes from packaging and materials. Toddlers and babies have a lot of floor time and so breathe in a lot more dust than adults. BPA can also be absorbed through skin contact with cosmetics, personal care products and when receipts are handled. BPA has been shown to cross the placenta and has also been found in breastmilk even if the mother was only exposed to low concentrations.
Why should we avoid it?
BPA is an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) which means it interacts with our body’s hormones. Depending on the time of life we are exposed to an EDC, the effects of the exposure differ. If we are exposed to them during development then the effects can remain throughout life, due to their effects on the programming of cells and tissues. EDCs have the potential to give a predisposition for a certain disease in adulthood that wouldn’t have been present if the exposure hadn’t occurred.
Studies have shown an association between BPA and:
- Decreased thyroid function
- Altered liver function
- Increased allergies, inflammation and asthma
- Diabetes – both Type I and Type II
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- Compromised learning ability
- Increased tumour aggressiveness
- Hyperactivity and aggressiveness in children whose mothers had high amounts of BPA in their bodies in the first trimester of pregnancy
Lab studies on animals show:
Early exposure to BPA while organs are forming cause:
- Profound alterations in the mammary gland which makes it more susceptible to breast cancer.
- Predisposed the baby to prostate cancer during adulthood even though the prostate ‘looked’ normal at birth.
- Increased insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and affected cells which regulate fat deposition and food intake. This demonstrated a link with obesity and type I and II diabetes.
- A reduction of thyroid hormone.
Studies have also shown BPA exposure could be a factor in the development of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
How I’m going to work towards removing BPA from our home.
Having looked at the research on BPA now, I’m more motivated than ever to decrease our BPA exposure at home. I just hate the idea that Isabella is exposed to BPA not just through her own food, drink and environmental exposure, but also through my breastmilk – she’s exposed to the BPA I come into contact with as well!
Here are the steps I’m going to take to reduce BPA in our home:
- I’m going to start by looking at all my food containers. I’ve been pretty BPA aware in this respect for a while, so I do have a lot of BPA free storage containers – with those, it’s important that they are made of the safer plastics – either numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5. I have started to accumulate more glass containers too and have recently ordered a stainless steel lunchbox for Isabella and stainless steel water bottles for my husband Bez and I. (Isabella already has and LOVES her stainless steel sippy cup!)
- The next step I’m going to take is to cut tinned food from our diets. We’re not particularly reliant on tinned food, however there’s nothing more convenient than tinned tomatoes, beans and coconut milk! It is possible to buy some BPA free tins, however I would use this as a last resort as unfortunately the alternative linings aren’t too fantastic for you either. The underneath of jar lids are also coated in a resin containing BPA… eventually maybe I’ll be able to avoid these too – but for the moment, I’m just going to take baby steps and avoiding tins is more than enough!
- I’ve also started actively asking to not be given a receipt at the shops. It does mean that I have to concentrate at the checkout to make sure things get scanned correctly as I can’t double check afterwards. If I need something for a warranty, I still take a receipt, however I’m going to start taking a sandwich bag so that it can just be directly put into that. Then I can refer to it later without touching it. Thermal receipts are covered with BPA and it has been shown to transfer onto your fingers in seconds.
- Isabella’s toys, I’m relieved to say, are now all BPA free… however, that has been a work in progress and I didn’t get it right the first time by any means. When buying a toy, I now look for a BPA-free label. If there isn’t one but I think the product should be a safe one, I actually phone the manufacturer and ask. My experience has been that the companies who make BPA free toys will happily tell you and the ones who don’t start making excuses about it being a secret as to what plastics they use or even defending the use of BPA in toys saying that it’s been found to be safe.
I feel like I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me! However as with all changes, it can feel a huge inconvenience and a chore when you’re implementing them and then you find new ways to do things and it gets easier and becomes a habit. I just keep reminding myself that every little baby step makes a big difference. Wish me luck!
Every move we make towards decreasing ours and our baby’s cumulative exposure to chemicals is an important one. To kick start you on your journey, I’ve written a guide of ‘9 Easy Ways To Reduce Your Chemical Exposure At Home’ which you get as a bonus when you sign up to my newsletter.