(Adapted from “Resilient Health: How to Thrive In Our Toxic World)
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a hormone mimicking chemical that is present in many products that we are exposed to on a daily basis. It’s so widespread, that a 2007 study by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies. BPA is an endocrine disruptor linked to abnormal fetal development, neurodevelopmental disorders, diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease, cancer and erectile dysfunction. And a recent study found that people who had higher levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in their urine were almost 50% more likely to die during a 10-year period.
Where are we exposed to BPA?
BPA is a component of polycarbonate plastic (plastic number 7), and is used in drinking bottles, food containers, dental sealants, receipts, medical tubing, feminine hygiene products, and the lining of metal food and beverage cans. BPA is also found in thermal register receipts and absorption is increased with hand sanitizer use by almost tenfold! BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and once absorbed it cannot be washed off. And according to Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, “The chemicals can easily transfer to anything a receipt touches — your hand, the money in your wallet, or even the groceries in your shopping bag.”
What about other BPA-free products?
Because of these potential health hazards, the FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups in 2011 and many manufacturers went “BPA-free.” But many products labeled “BPA-free” often use Bisphenol S (BPS) and Bisphenol F (BPF), which are known to have similar if not stronger hormonal effects and should also be avoided. Worse yet, some of the manufacturers use PVC (polyvinyl chloride) as a replacement, which is made from carcinogenic vinyl chloride and is known to leach from plastic bottles. Therefore be mindful of what your food packaging is made of and look beyond the “BPA-free” label.
How can we best avoid these hazards?
The good news is that just a few days of eliminating BPA and BPA-like products from your lifestyle can lower the amount of BPA in your bloodstream. Follow these tips to reduce your exposure to BPA in foods, beverages and thermal receipts.
To avoid BPA in foods & beverages:
- Eat more fresh foods and fewer processed foods.
- Choose frozen or dried foods over canned foods.
- Check if your brand’s packaging uses BPA:
- Purchase foods packaged in glass containers or ceramic containers.
- Cardboard brick-shaped cartons may be ok, but inquire about the linings of those cartons. Juice boxes are an example of a cardboard brick-shaped carton. Look on the bottom to see if it was made by Tetra Pak or SIG Combibloc as those do not have any bisphenol components and use polyethylene which is non-toxic.
- Avoid hard, clear plastics with the recycling code 7 or marked “PC” for polycarbonate.
What to do about products already at home:
- Replace pre-2011 baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, baby pacifiers and other hard, clear plastic food storage containers.
- Throw away cracked or scratched plastic containers. Scratching releases more BPA. Recycle them if possible (ask your local recycling program) or put them in garbage.
- Dispose of polycarbonate plastic containers labeled with a 7 inside the recycle symbol as they may contain BPA. If you must keep them, use polycarbonate plastic for cold storage and for non-food items. Never heat food or liquids in polycarbonate containers.
- Plastic containers labeled with a 1, 2 or 5 do not contain BPA or other plastic chemicals of concern and are safe to keep. Still, avoid heating foods and liquids in them.
- Use glass or unlined stainless steel water bottles.
Safer practices for receipts:
- It is possible to have thermal paper that does not contain phenol developers (including BPA and BPS). But although some manufacturers make “BPA free” thermal paper, it’s often coated with BPS – UGH! One tip is to scratch the paper with a coin; if you see a dark line appear, it contains BPA or BPS and should be avoided.
- Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with.
- Ask for receipts to be emailed, rather than printed or decline them if possible.
- Store receipts separately in an envelope in a wallet or purse.
- Wash your hands after handling receipts. Do not use alcohol-based hand cleaners after handling receipts.
- Consider putting gloves on before handling a lot of receipts.
- To avoid contaminating other products in the recycling stream, throw receipts in the trash. If a receipt is printed on phenol-free thermal paper, it can be recycled with “mixed office paper.”