We literally have become a plastic society. We eat, drink, breathe, touch and wear plastics. But, there is a growing movement towards ridding our everyday products of the chemical bisphenol-A, better known as BPA, and the equally unsafe alternatives. So, let’s look at their history and dangers so that we can try to avoid them.
In 1891, Russian chemist Aleksandr Dianin synthesized BPA in a laboratory and it made its debut in the 1950s when it was used to produce resilient and transparent plastics. In the 1960s, the FDA approved the use of BPA in consumer products, such as water bottles, baby bottles, food containers and epoxy linings for metal-based food and beverage cans.
Throughout the decades, there have been various studies surrounding the safety of BPA, but it wasn’t until David Feldman, a medical doctor and Stanford University professor, made a discovery about BPA in 1992 that the course of the discussion changed. Feldman and his team identified a molecule with estrogenic hormone-like properties that was leaching out of the plastic that appeared to be potentially dangerous to people eating out of containers made of this type of plastic.
BPA-free products are on store shelves that contain replacement chemicals to keep plastics soft and resilient. When a product states BPA-free on the label, it would seem to be a good thing, but what is the BPA being replaced with? This is not stated on the labels. The dilemma here is that these alternative chemicals are not only just as bad as BPA, but can be even more toxic. BPA and substitutes BPS (Bisphenol S) and BPF (Bisphenol F) are all near identical compounds.
In evaluating the risks of BPS and BPF, researchers conclude that they are both as hormonally active as BPA. These endocrine disruptors work by mimicking hormones that occur naturally in the human body. This can produce a negative overload of hormonal activity. Our endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, sexual function and reproductive processes. So, it is not surprising that BPA and related chemicals are associated with a great number of health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
Research from Canada demonstrates that the human body does not safely metabolize or excrete BPA, BPS or BPF. In 2016, Ella Atlas, PhD, of Canada’s federal health agency, Health Canada, and her team published an article in Endocrinology that addressed how exposure to BPS, a replacement for BPA, can encourage the formation of fat cells.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) conducted research that reveals that these endocrine disruptors carry the greatest risk when humans are exposed during prenatal and early-childhood development, and that these chemicals can cross the placental barrier, increasing the toxic load on a growing fetus.
Despite extremely strong scientific evidence that BPA has a very negative effect on health, by 2013 BPA was valued at more than $13 billion, and higher as the years go by. So, today this family of chemicals is found in a countless number of products. From the lining in food cans to bottle caps and lids, plastic food wraps, bottled water and soda, personal-care products and register and ATM receipts, BPA and its related chemicals surround us. As Little Anthony (and The Imperials) sang, “I Think I’m Going Out of My Head.”
Until manufacturers place a higher value on our health than on profits, as consumers we must take steps to reduce our exposure to plastics and toxic chemicals of all kinds. We need to seek out Earth-friendly products. Here are some steps we can take.
Buy whole foods. Processed foods are a common source of these chemicals. Replace them with sustainable, certified organic and GMO-free products.
Purchase and store foods in glass containers. The FDA banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, but again, what is it being replaced with? So, use glass baby bottles, and when purchasing children’s toys, avoid plastics by choosing natural materials. Save money by buying food in bulk and store it in glass containers, which can be washed and reused.
Avoid Teflon-coated and other nonstick cookware. When heated to high temperatures, nonstick cookware is acutely toxic to birds—and can kill them, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and other organizations, so take heed of this warning.
Limit microwaves and disposables. Microwaving food in plastic wrappers increases the amount of chemicals that are leached out. Don’t drink hot beverages from plastic cups. Try not to use plastic utensils or plastic-coated plates.
Ask store managers to replace the new register receipts with plain paper. The ones used years ago were not plastic coated.
Bite down on sealants free of BPA, BPS and BPF. When at the dentist, verify what type of materials are being used for dental sealants.
Look for green, toxic-free personal care products and household cleansers. Feminine-hygiene products can have undisclosed ingredients and tests suggest they may contain dioxins and petrochemical additives, so seek out more natural alternatives. Opt for fragrance-free products, since great smelling fragrances, including those in scented candles, contain dozens of toxic chemicals. White vinegar and baking soda are effective natural cleaners. And be sure to replace vinyl shower curtains with fabric.
Mindful and toxic-free people give birth to a healthier generation that also cherishes their first mother—Mother Earth. Stay safe.
Gary Feldman is a nutrition educator and lecturer, and an instructor in the Port Washington Union Free School District Continuing Education program, was an innovator in the nutritional supplement retail industry and is a health writer in Great Neck. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.