Bisphenol-A, or BPA for short, is a common chemical found in many consumer products such as the plastics used to make baby toys and the lining and lids of food containers. It is also frequently found in dental sealants, cash register receipts, reusable water bottles, and compact discs.
BPA mimics the hormone estrogen and has been associated with a whole host of adverse health effects including learning disabilities, infertility, breast cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early onset of puberty. The Maine Center for Disease Control states that even low levels of BPA may be harmful to unborn babies, infants, and children.2BPA is known to leach out of storage containers for water and other drinks, as well as from the linings of food cans, where it is then ingested. Studies have shown that most Americans have detectable BPA levels in their blood.3 A 2011 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who ate a small portion of canned soup every day for only five days had a ten-fold increase in blood levels of BPA.4BPA in Maine:
Under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act of 2008, BPA had been listed as a chemical of concern. In mid 2011, in a virtually unanimous vote by both houses of the Maine legislature, BPA became the first chemical to be banned under the Act. The law requires BPA to be eliminated from reusable food and beverage containers, such as children’s sippy cups, by the start of 2012, but does not include food packaging like infant formula, infant food jars, and canned foods.
You can reduce your exposure to BPA by taking some of the following steps:
Check out The Breast Cancer Fund’s wallet card which identifies 10 canned foods to avoid when trying to cut BPA exposure (see below for list, click here for wallet card)
The 10 canned foods to avoid:
Campbell’s Soup has announced it will phase out BPA from its cans, although it has not provided a time-line for the phase-out or identified what it will use as an alternative.
A note of Caution about BPA Alternatives
The evidence about BPA’s harmful effects is fueling research into BPA-free alternatives. However, testing requirements for newly introduced chemicals are quite lax. The government reviews toxicity data provided by manufacturers of new chemicals, if such data exists; however in many cases companies are not required to conduct studies. Nor is there a requirement that toxicity experiments be conducted by a third party.
In addition, companies are not asked to test for potential harmful effects on the environment of chemical manufacture or disposal.
The take-home message is to use fresh and minimally processed foods as much as possible.
Questions about Home-Canning
If you are home-canning, you can purchase BPA-free lids from the Tattler company, however these lids may release the toxin formaldehyde at high temperatures. The company website claims formaldehyde is not released at the temperatures found in the typical home canning process. We are unable to find solid studies supporting or refuting these claims.
It is possible that even the traditional BPA-coated 2-part lids used in home-canning will result in less BPA exposure than supermarket canned foods because in the former case the food is only in contact with the lid during the canning process itself. Again, we have not found solid studies to confirm this.
To learn more, emails firstname.lastname@example.org
BPA Fact Sheet by Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine
Statement in support of BPA-free food from Mike Belliveau, Environmental Health Strategy Center Director
Calafat AM, Ye X, Wong L-Y, Reidy JA, Needham LL (2008). Exposure of the U.S. Population to Bisphenol A and 4-tertiary-Octylphenol; 2003-2004. Environmental Health Perspectives. 116(1):39-44.
Pope, Tara Parker (Nov. 22, 2011). BPA Lurks in Canned Soups and Drinks. New York Times.
Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. New Test Results Reveal BPA in Baby Food, Canned Foods.
Rudel RA, Gray JM, Engel CL, Rawsthorne TW, Dodson RE, Ackerman AM, Rizzo J, Nudelman J & Brody JG (2011). Food packaging and Bidphenol A and Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Finding from a Dietary Intervention. Environmental Health Perspectives. 119(7):914-920.