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Understand what BPA is

Thursday, March 10, 2011 by: Carlos Greene
Tags: BPA, chemicals, health news

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(NewsTarget) Warnings against Bisphenol (BPA)-containing plastics are rampant. Most people understand that BPA should be avoided. But do people understand what BPA is? This article attempts to shed light on BPA. However, the information presented here is not all-inclusive and it is important to conduct your own research and make decisions on BPA for yourself.

BPA is a compound used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It was first synthesized in the late 1800's and has been known as an estrogen-imitator since the 1930's. BPA-based plastics appeared on the market in the late 1950's. One million tons of BPA was produced in the 1980's and 2.2 million tons were produced in 2008. The United States consumed 856,000 tons alone in 2003.

BPA is an endocrine system disruptor that mimics estrogen. It is linked to breast cancer, decreased testosterone, and imbalanced hormone levels, among a host of other maladies for the human body. The most detrimental effects of BPA are to fetuses, babies, and young children, which is quite concerning because they are the most often exposed. Studies have connected BPA to increased risk for the following:
- Cancer,
- Obesity and associated ailments such as diabetes,
- Neurological issues,
- Thyroid hormone receptor confusion,
- Heart problems (such as arrhythmia and irregular heartbeat), and
- Fertility/sexuality difficulties and DNA alteration.

Humans typically ingest BPA from food and beverage containers that leach BPA, especially when heated. A 2004 CDC study found BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples of people six years and older. In our plastic- and recycling-dominant world, it is important to understand where BPA exists.

Resin identification codes (RICs) were released in 1988 to identify plastic polymer types for recycling. RICs #1, #2, #4, #5, and #6 are unlikely to contain BPA, though RICs #1 and #6 are not suggested for repeated human consumption. RIC #7 is a catch-all category that often contains BPA. If plastics must be used for food and drink consumption, be sure to use the following:
- #2 HDPE (high density polyethylene),
- #4 LDPE (low density polyethylene), or
- #5 PP (polypropylene) recycled plastic containers.

BPA-containing epoxy resins are found in the inside coating of most food and beverage cans. BPA has been used as a fungicide, and it is also found in retail receipt paper (thermal paper) and water-supplying pipes. Polycarbonate plastics are clear and shatter-proof. Examples of polycarbonates used in everyday life include:
- baby and water bottles,
- sports equipment,
- medical/dental devices,
- dental fillings and sealants,
- eyeglass lenses,
- PVC,
- CDs and DVDs, and
- household electronics.

Some options for limiting BPA exposure, especially to children, include:
- Do not microwave polycarbonate plastic (typically RIC #7).
- Do not ingest canned foods or beverages.
- Use glass, porcelain, or stainless steel containers, especially for hot food and drinks.
- Use BPA-free baby and water bottles.

Simply avoiding BPA-containing plastics decreases the associated risks. One step further, becoming informed about BPA and its negative effects empowers understanding about why BPA is detrimental in the first place. Making conscious and informed decisions about BPA avoidance and plastic usage will benefit human health and the environment. Your children, family members, and animals will thank you.



About the author

Carlos Greene is engaged in multiple issues across the spectrum of public policy. He is a writer, organic gardener, and lover of music.

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