What Is BPA and Why Is It Bad For You?

Photo by Alan Carrillo on Unsplash

There is a three letter acronym that has been floating around lately that has a lot of people worried. The problem is BPA has been thrown around, but not many people know what it means or why it is harmful. I have even gone through stores looking for things free of this toxin without the actual knowledge of why I should be avoiding it. While it is a great thing to dodge things people say are harmful, we should at least familiarize ourselves with the why and how of the topic.

So, what is BPA? Why is it bad for you? I dug deep and pulled up a ton of articles and, while some of them made sense, one website would contradict the other one. One says it is bad for you while the other says you'll be fine and stop fretting (not in those words obviously). What was the truth? Are they all true? If you have similar questions, I have rounded up as much useful information in one little area so you can be better informed and make your own decisions.

What is BPA?
BPA stands for Bisphenol A which probably means nothing to you. This is an industrial chemical that has been around since the 50s to make a lot of the plastics we use or the resins on the products we consume. It is primarily found in epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics that are a lot more popular than you would think. What exactly are these two things with such odd names?

Epoxy is typically used to coat products like metal cans, drinking tops, and even in some sealants used in the dental world. Have you ever watched those neat videos where they cover a table, and it looks all shiny afterward? That is a form of epoxy resin. This stuff is like a sealant and superglue all in one making products stay together while adding a protective barrier.

Polycarbonate plastics are primarily used in food-storing containers and water bottles which is why you now see a lot of BPA free bottles on the shelves. The reason it is used in a wide array of items is due to its ability to mold and form while remaining stable and durable. The name itself comes from the fact that it is a polymer containing carbonate groups. Did I lose you there? No worries, I lost myself when I found this out.

Basically, this means that it creates a temperature and impact resistant mold that makes it easy to use for a wide range of products. A polymer is enormous in our day to day lives since it has a broad range of use while carbonate groups help link everything together. This means that polycarbonate (the product of both polymer and carbonate groups) is used for anything from water bottles to the eyeglass lenses you use every day.

BPA is one of the largest produced chemicals and for a good reason. It is a multi-functional synthetic compound that has been around since way before the 50s. It was initially discovered in the 1890s by Aleksandr Dianin and became popular later on after the research from Bayer and General Electric. It has also been researched as a potential for artificial estrogen but found that it was not as effective as other hormones such as Estradiol.

Is BPA harmful to humans?
This is where it gets a little confusing for people. The European Food Safety Authority came out at one point saying that it posed no risk to any age group. Later on, the European Chemicals Agency came out and said it does raise high concern as an endocrine disruptor (chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system). You also have The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) saying that it is safe with its low levels but also banned it in baby bottles. Do you see the confusion?

With so many agencies saying different things it is hard to know what actions to take. For the most part, I believe that you will not die if you have a water bottle that contains BPA. That being said I do think you should try to eliminate it as best you can since there are health risks associated with the compound. Soda isn't bad for you in low doses, but that doesn't mean we should be drinking it like water on a daily basis.

Three of the huge red flags I came across was a spike in blood pressure, the artificial estrogen, and the endocrine disruptors found with Bisphenol A. Several studies have shown that even in small doses patients who used BPA products had a spike in blood pressure which can be a little scary, especially with people who already have medical conditions.

While the artificial estrogen found in BPA is at a lower level than other hormones, it is still a cause for some concern. Some people who have smaller amounts of estrogen might be taking artificial estrogen, but if you are regular, this could backfire. Like soy products for some individuals, the levels of the hormone could trick your body into stop making estrogen. Why would it need to make it if you are taking it in?

Then there is your endocrine system. This system is a messenger carrying hormones to send off to your circulatory system which in turn sends it to different organs. Basically, this goes hand in hand with the estrogen problem you could potentially have with BPA. The disruptors found in the compound can throw off your system and could possibly lead to cancerous tumors or birth defects.

Overall, BPA is most likely not going to affect you with the small doses you do consume, but it never hurts to be safe. There is research that shows some of the BPA products you use have the potential to seep into the food and beverages we drink. It has also been shown to cause cancer, diabetes, and heart disease in animals. With this knowledge (and the baby bottle ban) you should definitely make sure infants do not have this compound in anything they use, and you are more aware of what you use to drink and eat out of.

Is BPA harmful to the environment?
In 2010 it was reported that over a million pounds of BPA are released into the environment every year. There are a scary number of ways it can seep into our atmosphere from before we buy a product to afterward. While many tests have shown that Bisphenol A does disperse relatively quickly, it is still a cause of concern for our wildlife.

Most products end up in wastelands or our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Since BPA has been shown to seep into the water, this also means that it leaks into these water supplies that our wildlife survives off of. There might not be enough research to see what low doses of BPA does to humans, but it is definite that it can cause significant problems with animals. For this reason, we should be more aware of what we buy or how we properly dispose of items (if you can recycle it, you should).

Photo by Jonny Caspari on Unsplash

So how can I reduce my exposure?
Knowing all of this probably has you wanting to toss every plastic container you have ever purchased in the trash. If you do want to lower your exposure you can follow a few of these ideas to keep yourself safe from potential dangers. Remember though, any plastics or metal cans you throw away should be recycled so that you are not just transferring the compound from your mouth to an animal.

Look out for BPA free products (usually says on packaging)
  • Cut back on your can usage
  • Avoid microwaving plastics
  • Use alternatives like glass or porcelain
  • Avoid plastics marked with recycle codes three or seven
  • Say no to receipts (contain BPA that can enter the body)
  • Use glass jars instead of cans
  • Purchase wooden toys or BPA free items

In my opinion the fewer toxins in your life, the better. Even though our products have low levels of BPA, it will make you and your family feel better knowing you are using the best and healthiest options. I'm not here to judge though! I merely want you to be more knowledgeable, so you can form your own opinions on the matter. How do you feel about BPA? Have you started buying different products because of the information? Let me know in the comments below!



Ask Away My Dear.

Blogger Template by pipdig