The federal government wants to take a closer look at the health and environmental impact of the controversial chemical BPA (bisphenol A). BPA is used to make a variety of consumer products including hard plastic containers and bottles, food can liners and cash register receipts. The chemical has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems. Now the Environmental Protection Agency is requesting public comment on possible toxicity testing and environmental sampling to study the effects of BPA.
The EPA says one million pounds of BPA is released into the environment every year. Steve Owens, with EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, says a number of concerns have been raised about the potential human health and environmental effects of BPA. The EPA says the high-volume commercial chemical is a reproductive, developmental, and systematic toxicant in animal studies and is weakly estrogenic. The agency says there are questions about its potential impact, particularly on children’s health and the environment.
The EPA and FDA are collaborating on research to better understand and assess the possible health consequences of BPA exposure. The Food and Drug Administration announced over a year ago it would look further examine the health effects of BPA and reduce exposure to the chemical in the food supply. In March of 2010, the EPA issued an action plan outlining possible steps the agency may take to address risks presented by BPA. Past toxicity tests used to make regulatory decisions have shown BPA levels in people and the environment fall below levels of concern.
While BPA is found in many everyday products there are ways to avoid exposure to the chemical. Here are five easy things you can do to reduce your risk:
1. Know What Kind of Plastic You Are Buying
BPA can be found in plastic food containers and water bottles. It’s best to drink water from a stainless steel or “BPA-free” labeled bottle. If you are using plastic food containers or buy food in a plastic container, check the bottom. BPA is used in polycarbonate containers often marked with the recycling label #7. Plastics with the recycling numbers #1, #2, and #4 are safer choices.
2. Use Powdered Formula and BPA-Free Bottles
BPA can leach into liquid formula sold in metal cans. Powdered formula has been shown to be BPA-free so that is the best choice. Most manufacturers now offer baby bottles made without BPA but as a general rule, hard, clear plastic often contains BPA while soft, cloudy plastic usually does not. Avoid bottles marked at the bottom with “PC” for polycarbonate or the number 7.
3. Cut Down on Canned Foods
BPA is also found in the lining of canned food and juices. The chemical can actually leach from the liner into the food itself. BPA has even been found in products labeled “BPA-free.” Testing also shows that drinks usually contain the least amount of BPA while pasta and soups contain the highest. Also, canned foods that have high acidity levels such as tomatoes usually have elevated levels of BPA. Experts recommend rinsing fruit and vegetables with water to remove some chemical residue.
4. Careful How You Handle Those Receipts
Several studies have found BPA in thermal paper including cash register receipts. If you don’t need the receipt, leave it or ask the cashier not to print one. If you need it be sure to wash your hands after handling. Certainly, never let your children handle store receipts.
5. Use Glass Containes to Heat Food in the Microwave
There is evidence that BPA can leach into food when it is heated in plastic containers in a microwave, even those that are labeled as “microwave safe.” To reduce potential exposure heat your food in a glass or ceramic container.
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