Thursday, October 07, 2010

BPA Primer: How to Avoid BPA (in Wellfleet)

What I want to talk about today is BPA. The acronym stands for bisphenol-A, a chemical that has attracted a lot of attention over the past few years. Above, one of the last cans of salmon I will buy. Note the white coating and beware: BPA lurks here.

What is BPA? From Wikipedia: “Bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA, is an organic compound with two phenol functional groups used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, along with other applications. Known to be estrogenic since the mid 1930s, concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products were regularly reported in the news media in 2008 after several governments issued reports questioning its safety, thus prompting some retailers to remove products containing it from their shelves. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised further concerns regarding exposure of fetuses, infants, and young children.”

Are your red lights flashing? “Known to be estrogenic since the mid 1930s.” Wow! 75 years that this chemical has been recognized as disruptive to hormone systems, and yet it is still out there, destroying lives.

How does BPA relate to Wellfleet? Well, at Marketplace, you can find canned goods lined with BPA. At the transfer station, we collect and recycle plastic bottles, carried by many tourists and known to leach BPA if left out in the hot sun. Abiyoyo sells children’s toys made of plastic that may contain the chemical. Town Pizza's take-out boxes probably use recycled cardboard contaminated with BPA. Sea Babies must have a few toddler books and toys, coated with the substance. Some of the shops have it on cash register receipts. At Outer Cape Health, there’s a good chance of finding medical supplies made of plastic containing BPA. Dunkin’ Donuts offers polycarbonate travel mugs that release BPA when heated in the microwave. And, then there’s you and me. 93% of Americans tested have measurable amounts in their bodies, so chances are Wellfleetians have it, too.

So, if this chemical was known for 75 years to be estrogenic, ie. capable of disrupting hormones by mimicking estrogen, how come it’s so prevalent? What were people thinking?

Chances are those in charge of such things thought BPA would not escape from the plastic, and that, if it did, the dose would be so small it could do no harm. Guess what? They were wrong on both counts. BPA, and other estrogenic chemicals, are wreaking havoc on hormone systems, and all it takes is a trace amount.

What say the folks at the FDA, those meant to protect us?

"The agency now considers BPA to be of some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses and the very young. Scientific studies have raised concerns about the chemical's link to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, reproductive failures and behavioral problems."

BPA has been banned in baby bottles in Canada, Denmark, France, and a few states in the USA, but the chemical lobby is working hard at defending its product. Last week the European Food Safety Authority proclaimed BPA poses no proven threat in food products. After reading Our Stolen Future, by Theo Colborn, I don't believe this for one minute.

So, what can you do? Stop exposing yourself and your loved ones. If you know any pregnant women or mothers of young children, pick up the phone and warn them now. Spread the word and insist legislators ban BPA and other toxic chemicals, which do not belong in our bodies. Read more in this month’s issue of The Atlantic.

Are you conscious of the risks BPA poses? Have you changed your habits to protect yourself and your family? Does it bother you that the FDA has not taken action to protect the children of America?