By now you have probably heard or read something along the lines of “BPA-free”. Do you know what BPA is and why some people are avoiding it?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a type of bisphenol; a chemical that is used in the making of food containers. BPA can be found in polycarbonate plastic containers. It is also in the lining of most food and beverage cans. Even though these are not directly put into food, these additives leach out.
We know that people are consuming leached BPA because it is measurable in their urine. There is increasing concern about this chemical being an endocrine and neurodevelopmental disruptor. There is also a
BPA as an endocrine disruptor
Most of the uproar with BPA is related to its ability to act as an endocrine system disruptor. That means it disrupt processes in the endocrine system such as:
- converting non-fat cells into fat cells
- disrupting the functions of pancreas cells
- altering how sugars are transported in fat cells
All these effects are seen in the amounts of BPA we consume daily.
Children are at increased risk
In early life, most developmental processes are subject to lifelong damage if disrupted. For ethical reasons, no one has actually conducted research on children on this and other related environmental toxins. However, we know children are more vulnerable to all chemical exposures because of their relatively high food intake as compared to body size, their ongoing development, and their immature detox mechanisms.
There are also racial and socioeconomic differences in BPA exposure. Low-income individuals and racial/ethnic minorities have been found to have higher BPA concentration
Why is this not regulated?
In the United States, BPA classified under the “Generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) category. However, the current requirements to be in the GRAS list are insufficient to ensure that food additives are actually safe. Also, the GRAS list does not protect against conflict of interests.
The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) is a law from 1938 (1938!) was amended in 1958 (1958!), to provide guidance and rule-making for food additives. Many of the food additives that were on the GRAS list before 1958, were grandfathered into the new list. Indeed, about 1,000 of these chemicals are still in use without any FDA testing!
Unfortunately, the FDA does not have the authority to obtain data or reassess the safety of the chemicals that are already on the market. The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending policymakers to strengthen all these regulatory processes to protect children’s health.
Alternatives to avoid BPA
Meanwhile, I urge you to decrease exposure to BPA. To be honest, I don’t know if there is a way to completely remove our exposure to this chemical. However, here are some tips to reduce your family’s exposure to BPA. A good rule of thumb is to remember that BPA seeps out of containers and into food more easily when it is heated.
- Choose fresh or frozen fruits and veggies when possible. This helps avoid the BPA-made or BPA-lined food containers.
- Avoid microwaving food or beverages in plastic containers.
- Do not put plastic containers in the dishwasher.
- Avoid plastic food containers at all if possible. Use alternatives such as glass and stainless steel.
- The recycling code number “7” means it is made with bisphenols (unless it is labeled “bioware” or “biobase” – which is made from corn)
Be wary of the plastics labeled “BPA-free”
Some plastics that used to be manufactured with BPA are finding their way back to the store shelves but now with the label “BPA-free”. While it is true to some plastics do not contain BPA, some contain other bisphenols which can be just as nasty as BPA. Probably the best alternative is to go plastic-free.
I know it’s hard to think about going without plastic food containers when it comes to kids. So, I compiled a list of BPA-free alternatives for you to consider (Some products may contain affiliate links to help support our blog, at no cost to you)
This brand is a personal favorite. These bowls feature a clean rim that is blunt, rounded, and thick to ensure safety (no sharp borders!). The border also has a sanitary rimless design does not collect dirty dishwater and food debris, ensuring your child is not exposed to gunk under the rim. The quality is amazing, they are meant to use forever, like an heirloom 😉 Once the babies have outgrown the Cub Bowls for their primary meals, they easily transition to snack bowls, salad bowls or dessert bowls that the whole family can use. There are no paints or coatings, just clean, durable, safe bowls that are easy to clean and completely free of toxins. My favorite feature is that Caveman Cups always has been and always will be sweatshop free. This means that all of their products are handmade by adults, in safe working conditions, are treated well, and paid fairly. [see other caveman products]
I know the Avent bottles are a favorite among many parents. This bottle is beautifully made with premium quality glass that is heat resistant. The nipple is wide and breast-shaped to promote a more natural latch that is useful when combining breast- and bottle feeding. This Avent Bottle also It also has a great mechanism to prevent excess gas accumulating in baby’s tummy when feeding. I am linking the 8-oz. one, but they come in many sizes. Most importantly, it is BPA-free glass. If the thought of glass scares you, you can always combine with a convenient silicone bottle sleeve like this one.
Another awesome alternative, made of food-grade stainless steel. The nipple is made of medical-grade silicone (silicone does not have BPA!). The coolest thing about this bottle is that it can grow with your child. It can transform to a sippy bottle, straw cup, or snack/milk container by simply swapping out the nipple top for another Pura silicone top. They have lots of sizes and other nontoxic products you can explore here.
This is an adorable 24-piece utensil set that is toddler-size, but made out of stainless steel. Ironically, even though adult utensils are usually stainless steel, the ones for kids tend to be some nasty plastic. They also seem to always become grosser by the hour. These are anti-rust and have no coating surface or plastic parts. These utensils all have smooth edges, rounded lines
These are a bit on the pricier side, but so well worth every penny. These bowls are a favorite for a good reason. They are BPA-free alternative for the entire family’s food storage, but can also double as a baking dish.
* note the lid is not microwavable and not bake-proof
Features a flip cap and a wide-mouth access to make it easy add ice cubes, citrus slices or tea bags. Also on the pricier side, but like other Lifefactory products, worth every penny. Has a protective silicone sleeve provides durability and a non-slip gripping surface. The sleeve comes in many colors. The bottle itself I believe is available in three sizes (12-, 16- and 21-oz).
Still a controversial topic
Have in mind that this is still a controversial topic. This is partly because there is no definitive, direct research on human subjects, as this is not ethical, and will probably never be done. Also, many entities who have conflicts of interests will stand by these chemicals. The FDA, on the other hand, continues to say that BPA is generally regarded as safe. But we know now what that means. It means nothing. So, be wary.
Please let me know in the comments below if you found this post useful. So, let me know if you would like to see more entries related to other toxic environmental exposures!
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- Hugo ER, Brandebourg TD, Woo JG, Loftus J, Alexander JW, Ben-Jonathan N. Bisphenol A at environmentally relevant doses inhibits adiponectin release from human adipose tissue explants and adipocytes. Environ Health Perspect. 2008;116(12):1642–1647pmid:19079714
- Braun JM, Kalkbrenner AE, Calafat AM, et al. Impact of early-life bisphenol A exposure on behavior and executive function in children. Pediatrics. 2011;128(5):873–882pmid:22025598
- Sathyanarayana S, Braun JM, Yolton K, Liddy S, Lanphear BP. Case report: high prenatal bisphenol a exposure and infant neonatal neurobehavior. Environ Health Perspect. 2011;119(8):1170–1175pmid:21524981
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- Mustieles V, Pérez-Lobato R, Olea N, Fernández MF. Bisphenol A: human exposure and neurobehavior. Neurotoxicology. 2015;49:174–184pmid:26121921
- Leonardo Trasande, Rachel M. Shaffer, Sheela Sathyanarayana, COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH. Food Additives and Child Health Pediatrics Aug 2018, 142 (2) e20181408; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2018-1408