Would you take a pill if the reported side effects included reduced sperm count, obesity, higher risk of diabetes, and heart disease? Of course you wouldn’t. Yet, everyday each and every one of us ingests just such a chemical in Bisphenol-A or BPA through the foods we eat and the beverages we drink. BPA is an environmental estrogen, which means that it interacts with the body’s own hormone receptors in unpredictable and often harmful ways.
Every year over six billion pounds of BPA is produced and incorporated into polycarbonate plastics, resins, and even is used to make cash register receipts! Pick up the nearest plastic container and flip it over – if it has a number seven recycling symbol, odds are it contains BPA. The trouble is that BPA has a propensity to leech out of plastics into its surroundings, which often means into your food, water, and beer. Yes, beer. Every beer and soda can is lined with it.
The amount of BPA present in your food, and thus in you, is extraordinarily small; however, this fact should not lull you into believing that it is safe. Toxicologists long assumed that substances become dangerous at higher and higher concentrations - for instance, a small amount of cyanide might not kill you but a lot will. Yet, BPA seems to defy this logic. Numerous scientific studies have shown that very small doses of BPA create adverse biological responses that are not seen in high doses.
A large scientific study conducted using information obtained by the Center for Disease Control indicated that BPA concentrations in urine show a positive correlation with the prevalence of diabetes, heart disease, and liver toxicity in adults. Other studies have shown that BPA levels in the bloodstream of women are associated with obesity, sterility, and miscarriages. Additionally, male rats exposed to BPA present significantly lower sperm counts. A pharmaceutical with such adverse side effects would never get approval – why should an industrial chemical that acts like a prescription hormone be any different?
Maine is about to become one of a growing number of states that regulates BPA in products designed for children, who are particularly vulnerable to hormone disruptors. However, this legislation will not ban BPA outright and everyone should work to limit his or her exposure to this dangerous chemical. With a few easy changes you can help to protect yourself. First, stop using any Tupperware containers that are marked with a number seven recycling symbol. Second, try to limit your intake of canned foods and beverages that come in aluminum cans (yes, this means buying beer in glass bottles!). And finally, if you do continue to use containers that contain BPA, never heat them or place hot liquids into them – this will cause more BPA to leech out!
Regulating toxic chemicals is a dreadfully slow process but as consumers we have the power to take preventative measures now to protect our health. Don’t wait for the government to regulate BPA or more studies to link BPA to poor health outcomes – the time to act is now.