Have you ever heard of a chemical called BPA? Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA, is an industrial chemical that has been used since the 1960s in the manufacture of many hard plastic bottles such as baby bottles and food containers. It is also used in the lining of metal food and beverage cans, including canned infant formula. Some foods packaged in these containers contain trace amounts of BPA.
Bisphenol A has many other uses. We come into contact with it many times a day. It is used by dentists on children’s teeth as a coating to prevent cavities, on refrigerator shelving, in returnable containers for juice, milk and water, in micro-wave ovenware and eating utensils, in the white coating on shiny receipts and in plastic coffee mugs. All of us, no matter our age, are exposed daily to BPA.
A new study has shown that our grandchildren, before they are born, are exposed to BPA through what the mother eats and handles during pregnancy. Published in Pediatrics online on October 24, 2011, the authors concluded that, in utero, “…BPA exposure might be associated with anxious, depressive and hyperactive behaviors in 3-year-old girls” and that, “…this pattern was more pronounced for girls…” than for boys. The researchers also stated that, “…the findings warrant additional research.”
BPA has not yet been proven to harm children or adults but newer studies have influenced The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to raise further concerns regarding the exposure to fetuses, infants and young children in its report in 2010. In September 2010, Canada declared BPA a toxic chemical. BPA use is now banned in baby bottles in both the the European Union and Canada.
At this time the FDA concurs with the National Toxicology Program’s view that the recent studies present reason for some concern about the possible consequences of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.
What is an adult who cares for children to do?
Has this information left you troubled and uneasy about what you can do to protect your grandchildren from the possible effects of BPA? While it may not be possible to completely eliminate BPA from our lives, there are a few important actions we can take to reduce its exposure to our grandchildren:
● Avoid purchasing number 7 plastics. Rigid plastic baby bottles, three- and five-gallon water bottles and certain food containers displaying this symbol on the bottom of the container:
● Limit canned foods & beverages. Lined metal food and beverage cans will commonly contain BPA.
● Don’t store foods in plastic. Glass food storage containers will not transfer any chemicals to the food. Use the plentiful glass containers on the market.
● Don’t transport beverages in plastic mugs or hard plastic water bottles. They may be great for hiking, but most likely they are made of polycarbonate plastic which contains BPA. Instead, choose a stainless steel water bottle, and make sure it’s unlined—some metal water bottles contain a plastic liner that may contain BPA.
● Minimize hard plastics in the kitchen. Those hard plastic stirring spoons, measuring cups, spatulas and colanders are regularly exposed to heat which can cause transfer of BPA to the food they contact. They are all easily replaced with wooden or metal tools.
● Skip the water cooler. The hard plastic five-gallon jugs that many companies use to offer water to their employees and customers are usually made of BPA-containing polycarbonate. Some of us may even have them in our homes. Instead, opt for tap water.
For more information, see these links:
Information for Grandparents:
FDA Update on Bisphenol A for Use in Food Contact Applications:
Janice Wade-Miller serves as a nutrition consultant and educator for The Children’s Campaign, a child advocacy agency based in Tallahassee, Florida. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food and nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator, she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens. Her email address is [email protected].