Chemical Plastic

April 20, 2011

How to Cut our Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) in Kitchen?

Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is a chemical used to make hard plastic containers and the lining of metal food and beverage cans. Some scientific studies have linked the hormone-disrupting chemical to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease and other serious health problems.

However, plastic containers and canned foods can be found in most kitchens because they are convenient and affordable. But there is growing evidence that our use of packaged food comes at a cost.

BPA is so ubiquitous – found even on cash register receipts – that more than 90 percent of Americans have traces of it in their urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While scientists continue to study the health effects of BPA and debate what is a safe level to intake, there are steps we can take to cut our exposure to the chemical in our kitchens by opting for safe alternatives.

Experts say BPA is most likely to leach from metal and plastic containers into acidic, salty or fatty foods. BPA levels also rise in food when it comes in contact with plastic containers that are heated, particularly in the microwave. So please not to microwave in plastic, and perhaps the next step is to get rid of plastics, and switching to glass containers.

As reported in The Chronicle on March 30 (bit.ly/gQP8hk), a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that it is possible to significantly reduce exposure to BPA and other synthetic chemicals by limiting packaged foods from our diets and storing food in glass or stainless steel containers.

The study acknowledges that while it’s not practical to avoid food packaging altogether, it’s best to choose fresh or frozen instead of canned food as much as possible.

Food preparation avoided contact with plastic utensils and non-stick-coated cookware, and foods were stored in glass containers with BPA-free plastic lids.

BPA is also found in the epoxy resins used to line metal food cans. In Japan, most major manufacturers voluntarily changed their can linings in 1997 to cut or eliminate the use of BPA in response to concerns about health effects.

“If a plastic container is hard and clear and doesn’t say ‘BPA-free,’ assume it’s made with BPA and don’t buy it,” suggests vom Saal, who uses only plastics marked on the bottom with recycling codes 2 and 5.

* More ways to reduce BPA exposure:

- Get rid of scratched plastic containers, which may harbor bacteria, and if made with BPA, lead to greater release of the chemical.

- Do not put very hot or boiling liquid that you intend to consume in plastic containers. BPA levels rise in food when containers or products made with the chemical are heated and come in contact with the food.

- Use stainless steel water bottles rather than hard plastic, but avoid metal bottles lined with a plastic coating and the type of multi-gallon polycarbonate water coolers typically found in offices.

- Eat at home as much as possible so you know how your food is prepared and stored. Higher BPA and DEHP levels are associated with restaurant meals. When you do eat out, choose restaurants that use fresh ingredients.

Last, please remember that “anything you can do to reduce the amount of BPA in your body will lower your risk of disease.”

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