What is BPA, a.k.a. Bisphenol A?

Decoding Household Chemicals

"Bartender, I'll have a soda. Hold the BPA please." This is easier said than done. Nearly all Americans have BPA in their bodies because of its widespread use, and while countries like Japan and Canada have taken steps to ban it, America has been lagging. Read more to find out what it is and how you can avoid it.

The Skinny Science:
BPA, or bisphenol A, is an organic compound with two phenol groups. Manufacturers like it because it is clear and nearly shatterproof.

People are concerned about BPA because human exposure to it is widespread. BPA mimics female hormones in the body (an estrogenic effect), and concerns include hormone disruption, developmental disorders, and cancer. The highest risk is for pregnant women, infants, and children. Newer studies have connected it with prostate disorders, obesity, and diabetes.

BPA is produced in large quantities to make plastics like polycarbonate plastic, most commonly, epoxy resins. It is used as a lining on the inside of nearly all food and beverage cans. You've seen it in a variety of everyday products like water bottles, baby bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics.

As an aside, 40% of our receipts have BPA. They are used to coat thermal papers in receipt printers.

Word to the Wise:
Here are some strategies for limiting exposure to BPA:

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. (Polycarbonate containers that
     contain BPA usually have a #7 on the bottom.)
  • Reduce your use of canned beverages and foods. BPA is used to line the inside of the      cans.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for
     hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free.
  • Don't eat or drink out of scratched containers. The scratches leak BPA.

As always, stay informed, be conscious of cumulative exposure, and green your routine to what fits you best.

Extra Tidbits:

  • Alternative names quicklist: bisphenol A
  • For more information, check out these sources: Scientific American, and A BPA timeline from the Environmental Working Group.

Previous Decoding Household Chemical Posts:
  • The Secret Chemicals in Fragrances
  • Hygiene Products for Dummies: Cosmetic Safety Database
  • What is Dioxin? How to Avoid Toxin Dioxin
  • The Dirt on Bleach: What makes Chlorine Bleach Bad News?
  • What is Triclosan? A Shady Chemical You should Unfriend


(Image: Courtesy of Flickr member By SeeMidTN.com (aka Brent))

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