September 18, 2008 10:15 by human
The common plastic additive bisphenol A has been getting a lot of press lately
. It's a hormone disruptor that can be found in almost everybody, and animal studies have linked it to breast and prostate cancer, and infertility. Knowing all that won't help you avoid the chemical, but we've got some information here that might. Knowing how you're exposed is among the best ways to minimize further exposure.
How'd it get there?
Studies show canned foods are a common source of daily BPA exposure in our lives. Cans of soda generally contain less BPA than canned pasta or soup. The worst foods tested contain enough BPA to put pregnant women and formula-fed infants much closer to dangerous levels than the government typically allows. Even some liquid infant formula is packed in cans lined with BPA, which seems ludicrous given the special vulnerabilities of children's developing systems.
In addition to canned food, certain plastics are often made with BPA. Called polycarbonate, these plastics are rigid and clear or translucent and usually marked with a recycling label #7. Not all #7 containers are made with BPA, but it makes for a reasonable and useful guideline for avoiding a category of plastics. Some reusable polycarbonate water bottles (we won't name names), marketed as non-leaching because they minimize plastic taste and odor, may still leach trace amounts of BPA. But hold on before you run out and buy a metal water bottle -- make sure you know what you're getting. Many reusable metal water bottles are lined with the same BPA-leaching plastic found in cans of food.
How do you get rid of it?
Unfortunately, BPA is so widely used and manufactured that you're not likely to eliminate it from your system altogether. There are some steps you can take to minimize your exposure, though:
- When possible, and especially if you’re pregnant and when feeding a young child, limit the amount of canned food in your diet.
- Avoid using old or scratched polycarbonate bottles. If you're in the market for a new water bottle, look for stainless steel water bottles that do not have a plastic liner.
- Don't use plastic containers to heat food in the microwave. Opt for ceramic, glass, or other microwavable dishware.
- Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA.
- If you're formula feeding your infant, consider using powdered formulas packaged in non-steel cans. Also, choose baby bottles made from glass or plastics that don't leach BPA (like polypropylene or polyethylene).