When I refer to BPA, I'm not talking about the Bonneville Power Administration. No, I'm referring to Bisphenol-A, an organic compound that has been used in plastic and resin products to strengthen them and make them more scratch-proof since 1957.
There are BPA-infused plastic coatings inside canned foods and soda to prevent the liquid contents from touching the metal, and BPA is used in thermal printing paper like cinema tickets and printed receipts. One of the most well-known uses in recent news is in the manufacture of sturdy plastic water bottles, such as the Nalgene brand.
Bisphenol-A wasn't much of a concern until 2007, when a group of 38 experts found that levels of BPA in humans currently exceeded the levels that caused harm in experiments with lab animals. A National Institute of Health panel determined there is 'some concern' about BPA's effects on fetal and infant brain development and behavior.
BPA is an 'endocrine disruptor'. It imitates your body's hormones, which are the messengers of the endocrine system. The endocrine system plays a major role in early development. From the time we are born, it lays the groundwork for higher brain/learning function, behavior, and reproductive development. Studies have shown exposure to BPA in formative years is probably connected to later tendencies toward obesity, addictive behavior, hyperactivity, attention-deficit, reduced memory/learning abilities, and increased risk of breast and prostate cancer.
As for adults, in 2008, the American Medical Association found that high levels of BPA had a significant connection with heart disease and diabetes. Workers in BPA factories showed increased occurrences of erectile dysfunction and other sexual disorders.
Once products containing BPA are discarded by humans, they enter into the environment. Marine species and amphibians have been shown to be highly susceptible, altering their development into maturity and inhibiting their ability to reproduce.
Safety levels have been established for humans, but those numbers are now being questioned and are currently under review as more scientific studies and data come to similar conclusions-that BPA, even at low dosage levels, can be harmful, in spite of its benefits.
So, how do we maintain a healthy family and protect ourselves from BPA, or at least reduce our exposure to it (especially expectant or new mothers with children!)? We seem to be surrounded with the stuff!
1. Look for the number inside the triangular recycle symbol on plastic items. Some #7 plastics are made with BPA. Number 3 PVC products may also contain BPA (only true for 'flexible PVC', not PVC pipes). Avoiding bottled water is a way of going green and protecting the environment, but if you want to buy areusable hard plastic water bottle, check the bottom to make sure it doesn't have the #7 on it. The packaging may also say 'BPA-free' to help identify a safer product and show that the manufacturer is concerned about these recent reports.
2. Avoid canned soda and foods. Fresh is so much more tasty, anyway!
3. When asked if you want a receipt, 'just say no'. It's so easy to mindlessly take one when it's handed to you. Try getting into the habit of finding other options. Why not use your account statements instead?
4. Another green solution is to order items online to be delivered to your house. You can receive an electronic copy of the receipt and only print it (on a non-thermal printer) if you have to for accounting purposes.
5. Wash your hands frequently. Studies show BPA doesn't get absorbed through the skin, but when your fingers contact your mouth, nose or eyes, it could get internalized. If you work with receipts or cinema tickets all day, try wearing latex gloves like many post office workers. Protect yourself like they do.
If you want to see many other great recommendations on how to live healthier while saving money in the process, just take the quick Quiz at GoingGreenToday and receive your free assessment. Try it today and become a green family!