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A Problem with Plastic

by Kimberly Button

THERE HAS BEEN MUCH TALK in the news lately about the chemical BPA, which has been found in common plastic items that are used daily in households across the country. While countless independent health studies confirm that there are serious health risks with this unnecessary ingredient, it is still legally allowed by law in so many of the products that touch your daily food and drink. BPA poses a serious health threat for children and adults alike — however, by following a few simple guidelines when shopping for your next plastic items, you can eliminate your exposure to BPA and possibly protect your health.

BPA is an abbreviation for Bisphenol-A, a chemical that was originally developed as a synthetic estrogen but today is a common ingredient in many plastic bottles and other plastic items, as well as some cans. Studies have shown that BPA can leach out of plastic into the food or drink it is containing. Since BPA is a synthetic hormone, it has been associated with health problems such as breast and prostate cancer, infertility and early puberty in children.

While BPA is found in some plastics, it is important to note that it is not present in all plastics. Plastics are categorized according to their composition, with numbers ranging from one to seven. These are the numbers found in the familiar recycling symbol of three chasing arrows in the shape of a triangle that is usually located on the bottom of a plastic bottle. Though plastic categories one through six are pretty straightforward about their chemical makeup, the plastic number seven category is sort of like a catch-all, and, unfortunately that is where BPA can lurk. BPA is usually found in polycarbonate bottles, which are hard and inflexible and carry a number seven classification.

Don’t Panic — Think

There’s no need to panic about exposure to BPA, though, if you use the following guidelines when purchasing and using plastic items:

• Recycle your existing plastic number seven water bottles, baby bottles, and food containers. BPA leaches from plastic at an increased rate if that plastic has been exposed to high heat, such as in a dishwasher, or has any small scratches, which occurs when you use a bottle brush to clean the inside of a bottle.

• Purchase baby bottles which clearly state that they are BPA free. It is vitally important to protect newborn children from exposure to BPA, since their immune system cannot deal with the toxic substance as well as an adult’s can.

• Choose reusable water bottles that are BPA free. Many bottles made of hard, polycarbonate, shatterproof plastic now carry a BPA-free designation. Even better, choose stainless steel or glass, which have been proven safe over the test of time.

• Inspect your canned foods. BPA has been found in the plastic linings that are common in many canned food containers. Switch to a brand that does not use a plastic resin coating in their cans.

• Choose powdered infant formula. Prepared formulas are usually sold in containers lined with a plastic coating, while powdered infant formula is usually not.

• BPA can even be found in the coating on some paper receipts. Don't handle a receipt any more than you have to, and be sure to keep the paper out of children's mouths. •


from the September-October 2012 issue

BPA is usually found
in bottles which are
hard and inflexible and
carry a number seven
classification.

BPA is a synthetic hormone
that has been associated
with health problems such
as breast and prostate
cancer, infertility and early
puberty in children.
Dr. Jose Leal