What’s the deal with BPA anyway? Here at terra20, we’ve got the lowdown on BPA in plastic in this two-part series. Let’s take a look at what it is and how it could affect your health.

If you aren’t familiar with BPA (aka bisphenol A), it’s a chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics are used in some food and drink packaging, like water bottles and plastic containers. BPA makes plastic cups and baby and other bottles transparent and shatterproof. In its resin form, BPA is used to line cans to prevent corrosion and food contamination.

 So What’s the Big Deal About BPA?

Research has shown that BPA can migrate from cans with epoxy coating into foods, especially at elevated temperatures (for example, for hot-fill or heat-processed canned foods) and there is the chance that plastic containers made with BPA may leach into food or beverages.

Canada was the first country in the world to take action on bisphenol A by proposing a series of measures to reduce BPA exposure for newborns and infants, which is why you see a lot of bottles and children’s teething toys marked “BPA free.”  But when it comes to big people stuff – e.g. can liners, beverage products and food containers – Health Canada issuing a statement that BPA is “not expected to represent a health risk.”

Health Canada’s 2010 study, in conjunction with World Health Organization (WHO), of BPA levels in canned drinks, for example, notes that a person would have to consume 940 canned drinks in one day to reach the tolerable daily intake. (Source: Health Canada) So, if it is so safe, why the concern? Quite simply, because we just don’t know enough about it.

BPA & You

If you turn to the Internet, you will find any number of conflicting reports and opinions. In animals, BPA can cause permanent effects, but when it comes to humans, experts are divided. While there are studies, ongoing research is required to examine the cumulative effect.

Here are a few of the most common concerns.

  • We know it’s in our bodies. A Canadian Health Measures Survey on environmental chemicals shows that BPA was detected in the urine of 95 per cent of Canadians aged three to 79. Children aged three to five, and six to 11, had the highest average concentration of BPA, while adults 60 to 79 had the lowest average level.
  • BPA is a known endocrine disrupter. A report found in Environmental Health Perspectives notes that Bisphenol A can mimic estrogen and has been shown to cause negative health effects in animal studies.
  • There is some concern about BPA’s effects on the brain and behaviour. In 2008, the National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction expressed “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.”
  • BPA exposure in developing prostate increases later cancer risk. Gail Prins, PhD, professor of urology and physiology at the College of Medicine at the University of Illinois in Chicago found that the prostate's sensitivity to this cancer-promoting hormone is greatly increased if they saw an inappropriate amount or type of estrogen when the gland is developing.
  • There may be a link between BPA and type 2 diabetes. Five different studies have looked at the correlation between BPA exposure and type 2 diabetes. The pooled data suggests higher BPA concentrations were associated with type 2 diabetes.
  • BPA exposure traced to abnormal heart rhythms. A study by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences reported a linked between BPA exposure and increased frequency of arrhythmias, or heartbeat irregularities, in animals.
  • It may be linked to obesity in kids and teens. NYU School of Medicine research reported that kids and teens with low BPA levels had only a 10 per cent risk of obesity, whereas those with the highest levels of BPA had a 22 per cent risk of obesity.

Tune in for Part 2 of this series where we offer up tips for avoiding BPA as well as tackle all your questions about plastic containers, how to identify BPA, using plastic wrap in the microwave and much, much more! In the meantime, you can check out some litterless lunch options here.

(If you’ve got any questions, ask them here and we will do our best to answer them!)

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