Bisphenol (BPA)"It's not just what you eat, it's what you eat out of"

The Scoop

Bisphenol A (more commonly referred to as BPA) will never be listed as an ingredient in your food. In fact, it is an ingredient in the plastic that encases your food; plastic that conveniently needs no list of ingredients. However, in a recent study, this chemical was found in the urine of 93% of Americans six years or older in a pool of 2,517 people (6). So how exactly did it end up being ingested? Well, remember your mom telling you never to microwave leftovers in the Tupperware? She was most definitely right, but it might extend well beyond that. It is very possible that this chemical leaches from the plastic without a need for electromagnetic waves (7). But since it has been approved by the FDA there is nothing to worry about, right(2)? Not exactly. Animal studies show that the chemical may cause some cancers, reproductive problems, heart disease, diabetes, as well as obesity (6,7). Below is a complete list of where BPA is hiding (7,8):

ü Baby Bottles/ Sippy Cups
ü Bottle/Can Liners (metal & plastic)
ü Frozen Dinners
external image bpa-pregnant-woman1.jpg ü Yogurt Cups
ü Receipt Paper
ü Medical Devices
ü Dental Sealers
ü Tupperware
ü CD’s
ü Helmets
ü Lenses
ü Computers
ü Cell Phones

What the Chemist knows…and you might not

Bisphenol A is an organic compound used in polycarbonate plastics. Polycarbonate plastics are the durable and transparent plastics used to contain so much of our food and drinks. Bisphenol A is created by the condensation of acetone, hence, the suffix A in the name. Further, it has two large phenol groups that are weakly acidic and that is the chemistry behind the name (2).

BPA imitates estrogen, a fact that has been clearly understood since the mid 1930’s (8). A chemist by the name Frederick vom Saal reveals high levels of estrogen in the body increases the body's sugar production, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease (6). But it doesn’t end there. This is just one example better explained. Several other harmful effects have been linked to BPA but lack hard proof, so the FDA refuses to recognize it (9).

This structure contains 15 Carbon atoms, 16 Hydrogen Atoms, and 2 Oxygen atoms.

The Dispute

Canada has deemed BPA a toxic substance (5). Europe has recently banned it in the making of baby bottles (4). Japan has replaced the chemical with a modern film-liner to avoid contamination (9). BPA has been the center of controversy here in the U.S too, but no great things have come from it yet. California Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is a leader in the efforts to ban BPA in the U.S. This is what she has to say, “The evidence against BPA is mounting, especially its harmful effects on babies and children who are still developing. I very much regret that the chemical industry puts a higher priority on selling chemicals than on the health of infants. I will not cease in my efforts to remove BPA from products where it can harm human health, and I urge consumers to vote with their pocketbooks by refusing to purchase products that contain BPA.”

An amendment introduced by Dianne and others banning the use of BPA in baby bottles & sippy cups and to research the chemical further failed (5). Why? Well because some think we should put our full trust in the FDA and not “undermine” them. At one point the FDA expressed “some concern” about the chemical but just seven months later issued a statement saying BPA is safe at current levels of exposure . The issue is the FDA may be relying on some studies provided by the American Chemistry Council who depend on BPA production and whose studies may not be accurate (9). A few smart states & certain counties have taken it upon themselves to ban BPA to ensure the safety of their own people. (Vermont, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Washington, Maryland, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, the city of Chicago have BPA bans.)

What to do?

With your newly acquired knowledge, STEER CLEAR of this crippling chemical. With over 80,000 chemicals being used still in limbo about how safe they are to ingest, you might not want to take the governments word for it. Another gamble is how much of this chemical are you actually ingesting? There is no way to tell. After all, the FDA approved BPA in the early 1960’s, just about the time Swanson predicted TV dinners would become all the rage.

Beware! A can of Chef Boyardee Beef Ravioli off a San Diego shelf tested with 261 parts per billion. Compare this with Bush’s Best Black Beans containing 10.5 parts per billion of BPA (3). Even the American Chemistry Council says that BPA is generally detected at extremely low levels (under 37 parts per billion) They even try to shock you with facts like, “At these levels, a consumer would have to ingest more than 500 pounds of canned food and beverages every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the safe level of BPA set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1).” Well, they are wrong. BPA is evidently leaching a lot more from these plastics than they think. This is why in Los Angeles, 19 of 19 name-brand foods tested positive with measurable levels of BPA (7).

The chemical industry is hugebut so are big name supermarkets. Companies like Walmart offer BPA-free baby bottles and have plans to further their efforts this upcoming year (9). What you may find a little unsettling is that plastics such as “Glad” and “Rubbermaid” who claimed there products were BPA-Free, were actually not (7). However, it is some step in the right direction. Be an aware consumer and look for…

external image BPA_free_logo.jpg

Works Cited:

(1 ) "About Bisphenol A”. BisphenolA. Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group. 2003-2010.Web. 28 Nov 2010. <__>

(2) “Bisphenol A (BPA)”. FDA U.S. Food and Drug Administration. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. 27 May 2010.Web. 28 Nov. 2010 <__>

(3) “Tests Show Cancer-Causing Chemical In Some Canned Foods.” 10News. 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2010. <__>
(4) “Europe bans baby bottles with Bisphenol A.” The Gazette. 25 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2010 < Bisphenol/3883871/story .html>
(5) “Senate caves in on BPA ban.” The Vindicator. 25 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2010

(6) Kolbert, Elizabeth. “A Warning by Key Researcher On Risks of BPA in Our Lives.” Yale Environment 360. Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. 24 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2010 < bpa_in_ our_ lives 2344/>

(7) "Report: Many packaged foods contain BPA" abc7. 3 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2010

(8) Case, David. "The Real Story Behind Bisphenol A" Fast Company. 1 Feb. 2009. Web. 28 Nov. 2010

(9) Rentas, Khadijah. "To ban or not to ban: Bisphenol-A in food is OK with FDA but not with some scientists" Missourian. 28 Oct. 2010. Web <>