Ah..plastic! The triumph of the 20th century!
It’s all around us and found in places it shouldn’t be. (Like your urine…more on that later) Just look around you…..pretty much everything you see is made of some form of plastic. But some plastics are “better” than others. Some are “safer” than others. This is an examination of just ONE of the harmful plastics: BPA
First, a quick look at the history of plastic!
The birth of plastics goes all the way back to 1868 with the invention of celluloid (yes, the motion picture industry was born too). Then came formaldehyde types of plastics that could be molded into shapes. (Formaldehyde, we know now, is a potent carcinogen)
In the 1950’s a new, lightweight, fun-filled plastic was developed: polypropylene. This is the plastic that leeches BPA or Bisphenol A. BPA is widely used in everything from canned food lining, to baby bottles, to plastic water bottles. IT IS HARMFUL despite what the chemical companies and mega manufacturers tell us, but it is manufactured at a growing rate of 2.6 billion tons a year! It is inexpensive to make,and widely available for many uses and that makes manufacturers get a collective woody.
What does it do?
Your body reacts the same way to BPA as it does to hormones. More specifically the sex hormones. This means there are irregularities (miscarriages, menstrual disorders, early puberty,etc.) and more breast cancer, ovarian, and prostate cancer when exposed. And…everyone is exposed.
More recently, it was suggested in studies reported by JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) that high BPA urine levels are associated with liver disease, cardiac disease, and obesity.
A recent study done at Harvard School of Public Health showed that BPA urine levels rose 69% in just one week of drinking out of plastic water bottles, showing that it is not just long-term exposure that can be harmful.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) over 90% of the American population over the age of 6 (YES 6!!!) has positive BPA levels in their urine. Baby bottles and sippy cups are among the products manufactured with BPA plastics.
Here is a list of all abnormalities linked to BPA exposure:
- Ovarian cancer
- breast cancer
- prostate cancer
- premature birth
- ADD and ADHD
- liver disease
- heart disease/lipid abnormality
- feminizing male organs in utero
and the list is growing…..
Big Business….Big Money…..Lots of Lies
Do you know how to tell if large corporations are lying to us? Their lips are moving.
Multi billion dollar companies got together last year (May 2009) to think up ways to “convince consumers that BPA is safe”. In attendance were Packaging Alliance, Grocery Manufacturers Ass., Chemistry Council, Del Monte, Coca Cola Alcoa, Crown, and North American Metal. These companies stand to lose a lot if BPA is banned. They rely on polypropelyne plastics to provide cheap packaging for the sub standard crap they call food.
In the meeting, they tried to think of ways to target young women (young Moms). They stated their “holy grail would be a pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA”. This is an actual quote from the memo on the meeting. Read the entire report here.
Does this sound familiar?? (tobacco industry????)
This is big, big, money…..
Big money means this issue goes all the way to capitol hill. Recently the food manufacturers supported a food safety bill UNTIL it contained legislature that would ban BPA from food containers. They then withdrew their support for the bill. (withdrawing support, usually means also withdrawing money from other federal projects and from certain campaign funds) Read the Washington Post article here.
BPA in cash register receipts!!
Yep, Thermal paper that is used widely in all store cash registers has tested positive for BPA. When the US postal service was asked if it used BPA free paper, they said yes. When receipts from three local post offices were analyzed, it tested positive for BPA. (don’t forget, the post office is a government agency) Luckily, now that the word is out, more and more businesses are switching to safer paper.
Now for my take….
As a health professional, and a woman, I have to try to see the big picture and theorize, and then adopt a practice that I can use in my life, being smart, without being disruptive.
I have to note that BPA became popular in the 1960’s. Some facts:
- in 1960, a woman’s chance of getting breast cancer was 1 in 20, today it’s 1 in 8
- ADD and ADHD prevalence has increased 3% each year since 1997, there is no data for 1960
- girls are getting their periods earlier than ever before and maturing at alarming rates
- adult and child obesity has hit an all time high
- more and more adults are taking cholesterol lowering medicine than ever before (we might owe that to the wonderful ads on TV)
All these problems could be linked to the increase in BPA use…..could….
I grew up on Long Island, New York. Long Island was the first place to ban BPA plastics from baby bottles and cups. They saw the effects and acted. I developed stage III breast cancer at age 40 with not a single risk factor…… I grew up on Long Island….just a thought….
What I do
- I never drink out of plastic water bottles. I choose glass or I carry a stainless, non-lined, bottle that I fill up myself
- I choose fresh food first, then frozen, if I must, non-lined cans. But I limit the can use
- don’t buy food in plastic wrap (meat or vegetables) or use plastic wrap in the microwave as heating causes increased leaching as does contact with fatty(meats) or acid foods. ask butcher to wrap in waxed paper.
- never microwave food in any plastic container-use ceramic or glass.
BPA is just one of the many plastics in our environment. Please click here for a full list of plastics and their safe use.
For those of you with children here is a great resource site for safety