What Is BPA? Everything You Need To Know

Photo: Franck Michel

Most health conscious individuals asked themselves “what is BPA?” Well, Biaphenol A, also known as “xenoestrogen” and abbreviated as BPA is a chemical substance that is used in the manufacture of epoxy resins, polycarbonate plastic resins and other food storage containers. Often referred to as “stubborn abdominal fat,” this chemical has been linked to various health complications. According to a study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly 95% of American adults and 93% of children have traces of this substance in their bodies.

The history of BPA

Biaphenol A was first discovered by Aleksandr Dianin in 1891. By mid 1930s, the substance was already in use as an artificial estrogen. Food and beverage processors began using it in the 1960s in making hard clear plastic containers for items like baby bottles as well as in the lining of metallic food cans. Since 2000, several studies have shown disorders in animals exposed to BPA during laboratory experiments. Some of these disorders include obesity, development of cancer, diabetes, neurological disorders as well as reproductive failures. In April 2008, Canadian health officials declared BPA toxic and proposed to have it banned from use in children’s food containers. This prompted manufacturers like Wal-Mart, Nalgene, CVS pharmacies and Toys “R” US to announce plans of phasing out the use of BPA in manufacturing children’s products. In addition, by September 2008, the National Toxicology Program released a report expressing concern on the effects of Biaphenol A on prostate and neural developments in fetuses and infants as well as on breast tissue during puberty.

Common sources of Biaphenol A

1.Food cans and polycarbonate containers
Studies have established that Biaphenol A can leach from the plastic lining of polycarbonate storage container or food can, especially when cleaned with a strong detergent or when used to store acidic or high temperature fluid. This is the primary source of human exposure to BPA. According to studies, small but incredible traces of BPA have been found in canned soft drink bottles as well as other canned human and animal foods such as infant formula, green beans, dog food and fresh turkey.

2.Polycarbonate Plastic Bottles
These containers can also store significant levels of BPA. A 2009 study revealed that individuals who drank from these bottles had their BPA level in urine higher by about 60% in comparison to those who did not drink from polycarbonate plastic bottles.

3.Water Pipes
BPA trail does not end with food and beverage containers. This substance also exists in the form of epoxy resin used to internally coat and prolong the service life of water pipes in buildings. As these pipes deliver cold and hot water to the buildings’ occupants, they also carry along traces of BPA to these occupants.

4.Certain Kinds Of Paper
Another potential source of BPA exposure is carbonless copy and thermal papers. BPA exposure from these papers can be high because the substance loosely holds onto the molecules of the paper. As you touch these papers with moist fingers, and then touch your mouth, you will certainly be ingesting heavy doses of BPA. Product labels, movie tickets, receipts and airline tickets, all are printed using BPA rich paper. Thus, BPA can easily transfer from the ticket to your hands and then to your mouth via food particles.

The health effects of BPA

Biaphenol A is an endocrine disrupting compound (EDC) that interrupts the production, transportation, secretion and activity of enzymes. In addition, it also facilitates removal of natural hormones from the human system. Hormones are essential for maintaining the normal cellular metabolism or homeostasis, reproduction, development, and even the overall behavior of the individual.

BPA has been linked to the following health complications:

1. Reproductive disorders
Studies have found that exposure to BPA could interfere with neurological development in infants and young children. These studies were backed by NIH study that found uterine damages in animals exposed to this substance. This damage can be significant sign of reproductive infections among women including fibroids, cystic ovaries, endometriosis and cancers of the reproductive system.

2. Impotence and sexual disorders in men
Exposure to BPA in men have been linked to increase in the risk of erectile dysfunction as well as other male sexual disorders such as ejaculation and lack of sexual desire. In addition, studies have also indicated that higher doses of BPA in men can result in endocrine imbalances.

3.Type 2 diabetes
FDA studies have established the link between high levels of BPA in urine to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and liver- enzyme disorders.

4.Asthma rates
A 2010 research linked an increase in asthma attacks to high levels of Biaphenol A. According to this study, 10mg/ml of BPA in mice stimulated allergic sensitization and bronchial inflammation. The same dosage mimics the effects of BPA in humans, especially in expectant women.

Minimizing accumulation of Biaphenol A in the body

Here are simple tips that can help you in minimizing the effects of this substance in your system.

  1. Take fresh frozen foods instead of canned foods. However, if you have to take canned foods, then be sure to go for those that are packed in containers free of BPA. This should include buying products such as tomato pastes that are packed in glass bottles.
  2. Do not microwave food in plastic containers. This way, you will minimize leaching of BPA and other chemicals into your food.
  3. If you have to re-use plastic bottles, ensure that they are not made of polycarbonate. In addition, look out for the BPA-free label in the food container. Bottles that have “PC” marks are likely to contain BPA. In addition, most aluminum bottles contain a BPA lining hence you are better off avoiding food packed in such containers.
  4. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) studies revealed that nearly 42% of soda cans that are made of polycarbonate contain BPA hence you are better off avoiding them too.
  5. Use of hot plastic mugs for hot liquids like coffee, drinking water and tea may accelerate leaching of BPA into the fluids, and into your system. Thus, you need to be sure that the plastic mugs you are using are free of this substance.

If you are trying understand “what is BPA?” and “what are its sources?” then you need to know that this substance is primarily available in most polycarbonate plastics that are used to package food products. While you cannot eliminate BPA entirely from your life, you can certainly take measures to minimize exposure to it. Knowing the common sources of BPA will certainly be an essential tool when deciding how to reduce exposure to this toxic industrial chemical.

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