The FDA in late March denied a petition seeking to ban bisphenol-A, commonly known as BPA, from food and beverage packaging, but the agency said it continues to support research examining the safety of the chemical.
BPA has been used for decades in a broad range of food and beverage containers, including sippy cups, cans and baby bottles. A growing body of research looking at subtle effects at low levels of exposure to the endocrine disruptor has led the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA to conclude that they have "some concern" about the potential effects "on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children."
That’s the conservative view. Many environmental and health organizations assert that BPA is a toxic estrogen-mimicking compound that compromises immune health and is linked to breast cancer, early puberty, infertility, and other maladies.
Much of the fuss over BPA risks has focused on its potential to harm babies and children; however, recent studies have linked elevated BPA levels in adults with early heart disease and diabetes.
BPA has been banned in baby bottles in Europe, Canada, and even China – but not in the U.S. And it’s very hard to avoid exposure to this substance. It's in water bottles, dental fillings, store receipts, soup cans, plastic-packaged foods, and many more products we encounter on a daily basis, according to a study from the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute. The study suggests that the best solution is subsisting on a fresh food diet, which could cut down on BPA exposure by at least 60 percent.
Almost all canned foods sold in the United States have a BPA-based epoxy liner that leaches BPA into the food. Environmental Working Group tested 97 canned foods and found detectable levels of BPA in more than half of the foods. The highest concentrations were in canned meats, pasta and soups. It’s generally recommended that pregnant women and children should limit their consumption of canned foods to avoid BPA. Rinsing canned fruit or vegetables may reduce the amount of BPA you ingest.
While it’s next to impossible to avoid BPA entirely in day-to-day life, there are steps you can take to minimize exposure:
- Drink tap water or rely on BPA-free stainless steel water bottles (from companies like Nalgene or Sigg) instead of commercially bottled water.
- Instead of eating microwavable meals that come out of plastic containers, eat only freshly-prepared, organic foods.
- Instead of using plastic utensils, rely on the old standbys. The same goes for plastic cups and plates.
- To be safe, avoid all canned foods and use non-canned variations (replace canned soup with soup in a carton, for example) unless cans denote that they have a BPA-free lining. If that's not possible, avoid these specific canned foods, which are known to be high in BPA: coconut milk, soup, meat, vegetables, meals, juice, fish, beans, meal-replacement drinks, and fruit. Take special care to avoid foods that are acidic, salty, or fatty.
- Steer clear of plastic storage containers for leftover food. Instead, use glass containers along with BPA-free plastic lids. The food should not touch the lids.
- Instead of using a plastic coffeemaker or going out for coffee, use a French press or ceramic drip.