Concern over the controversial chemical BPA (bisphenol A) has prompted an increase in metal water bottles and products labeled “BPA-free.” Studies have linked the chemical to problems with brain and nervous system function, reproductive and behavior problems and some cancers. BPA is a chemical widely used in food packaging, hard plastics and liners in metal cans.
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati wanted to find out if bottles marketed as alternatives to BPA-containing plastics really lived up to their claim. In the process they tested aluminum and stainless steel water bottles that have become a popular alternative to plastic because of concern over BPA. Researchers found some aluminum bottles released up to five times the amount of BPA than some plastic bottles. The bottles leaching the chemical were lined with epoxy-based resins. Researchers found both stainless steel and polyester lined bottles did not leach BPA. Experts say epoxy liners usually look copper colored and could be tacky to the touch. UC Professor Scott Belcher says “Consumers should not think that just because a bottle isn’t polycarbonate plastic that it is safe from the dangers of BPA.”
The study did show that when bottles are used according to manufacturers recommendations and are constructed from BPA-free alternative materials they can be used without fear of BPA contamination. Researchers also say the bottles they tested with “BPA-free” labels did not leach the chemical. However, experts point out that the “BPA-free” label is not regulated and has no real meaning other than a marketing tag.
There are other containers and products that contain BPA and simple steps you can take to avoid your exposure.
1. Know What Kind of Plastic You Are Buying
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 Baby 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 Containers 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.
Want more healthy, money saving, green living tips? Sign up for my weekly Do Your Part® eNewsletter. Get daily green living tips on Facebookand Twitterand eco-news at DoYourPart.com/category/eco-news/.