Bisphenol A (BPA), a known hormone disruptor, is a hard chemical to avoid: it is one of the highest-volume chemicals produced worldwide. It is detected in body fluids of more than 90% of the human population, and it is the cause of various health concerns, with many scientists associating exposure to BPA with potential developmental effects on various hormone-responsive organs.
BPA is produced in large quantities and used to make a hard, clear plastic known as polycarbonate, which is used in many consumer products, including reusable water bottles and infant bottles. BPA is also found in epoxy resins used as lacquers to coat metal products such as canned foods (including baby formula), bottle tops, and water supply pipes. Some dental sealants and composites may also contribute to BPA exposure. Compact discs, impact-resistant safety equipment, medical devices, and thermal paper are also sources of contamination. According to the NIH, the primary source of exposure to BPA for most individuals is through their diet, as the chemical can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of cans in addition to other everyday consumer products like plastic tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles baby. The degree to which BPA leaches from polycarbonate bottles into liquid may depend more on the temperature of the liquid or bottle, than the age of the container.
The original approvals were issued under the Food and Drug Administrations (FDA) food additive regulations and date from the 1960s. Once a food additive is approved, any manufacturer of food or food packaging may use the food additive in accordance with the regulation. The American Chemistry Council, an association that represents plastics manufacturers, contends that BPA poses no risk to human health. The FDA is still “studying” the issue.
The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older. Average BPA concentrations, adjusted for age and sex, were higher in those diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. In fact, even a slightly raised BPA concentration was associated with a 39 percent increased risk of having cardiovascular disease (angina, coronary heart disease, or heart attack combined) and diabetes.
There is growing international concern that exposure to low doses of BPA, defined as less than or equal to 5 mg/kg body weight, may have developmental effects on various hormone-responsive organs including the mammary gland. A Swiss study titled, “Perinatal Exposure to Bisphenol A Increases Adult Mammary Gland Progesterone Response and Cell Number” concluded that perinatal exposure to environmentally relevant doses of BPA alters long-term hormone response that in turn, may increase the propensity to develop breast cancer.
My father, the late Mirko Beljanski, PhD, a biologist-biochemist who worked for over 30 years at the famous Pasteur Institute in Paris, wrote a book (THIRTY YEARS AGO!) regarding the exploration of the basic principles of DNA replication and transcription, and the role of trigger molecules in normal and malignant gene expression. At the time, the scientific community at large considered the difference between normal DNA and cancer DNA to be caused by mutations of DNA’s primary structure. Beljanski further observed that the unwinding of the cancer DNA is perfectly proportional to the increase in DNA synthesis, which also correlates to the in vivo rate of cancer cell multiplication. Each destabilizing substance contributed in varying degrees to the separation of the strands in the cancer DNA helix. Furthermore, he found their effects to be additive and cumulative. In doing so, Beljanski offered a scientific explanation, at the cellular level, describing how many pollutants affect our DNA and may induce cancer.
However this breakthrough research has been completely ignored by bureaucrats. To understand the regulators’ apathy, you have to follow the money: each year about six billion pounds of BPA are produced worldwide and more than one million pounds are released into the environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Government neglect, combined with the explosive growth of the U.S. and International plastics industry, and the dependence of the plastics industry on petroleum are just glimpses of what is at stake here.
In September 2008, the National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, part of the National Institute of Health, completed a review of BPA. In its review, it expressed “some concern” regarding the effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposure levels. The report concludes that “Because these effects in animals occur at Bisphenol A exposure levels similar to those experienced by humans, the possibility that Bisphenol A may alter human development cannot be dismissed”. As predicted, plastic industry leaders have hotly contested this and other warnings about BPA. However, in 2009, after years of insisting BPA posed no threat to the health of babies, six larger plastic manufacturers announced they would stop shipping newer baby bottles made with the chemical. No existing baby bottles were recalled, nor were they taken off the shelves…
On July 17, 2012, the FDA published a notice to amend the food additive regulations to no longer provide for the use of polycarbonate (PC) resins in baby bottles and spill-proof “sippy” cups, including their closure lids designed to help teach young children to drink from cups. This was caused by a petition filed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) proposing to amend the regulation because the use of PC resins in baby bottles and spill-proof “sippy” cups had been abandoned. According to the testimony of six major U.S. manufacturers, all confirmed to the FDA that they were no longer manufacturing these products using BPA for the U.S. market. These manufacturers produce products for brands that include Avent, Doctor Brown’s Natural Flow, Evenflow, First Essentials, Gerber, Munchkin, Nuk, and Playtex. Because the petition was based on an assertion of abandonment, the FDA did not request comments on the safety of the use of PC resins in baby bottles and spill-proof “sippy” cups. Safety information is not relevant to abandonment and, therefore, any comments addressing the safety of PC resins were not considered in the Agency’s evaluation of this petition.
Last spring, consumers bombarded the FDA with demands to know if food and baby products containing BPA are safe. The government agency claimed to have investigated the matter but a slew of new animal studies have suggested that BPA can harm the brain, prostate tissue and mammary glands. In addition to reproductive problems, multiple other studies have linked BPA to a predisposition to breast cancer, prostate cancer, behavioral changes, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. In August, the FDA ruled that there was insufficient evidence to support banning BPA from food and baby products.
Some grass root consumer groups took the battle to the State level. In Vermont, as of July 1, 2012, no person may manufacture, sell, or distribute any reusable food or beverage container containing BPA, and any infant formula or baby food stored in a plastic container or jar that contains BPA. As of July 1, 2014, no person may manufacture, sell, or distribute any infant formula or baby food stored in a can that contains BPA. Connecticut has taken similar action.
This past September in Maine, eight hundred moms and concerned citizens petitioned to change the state rules to increase protection for infants and babies from BPA. Their message was clear: We want baby food jars lined with BPA off the shelves in Maine. Just a few weeks ago, all members of the Board of Environmental Protection voted in support of a ban of BPA in packaging for baby food and infant formula. This now has to be approved by state legislature.
On Friday January 25, 2013, California’s Environmental Protection Agency declared that BPA could soon be listed under Proposition 65, which would require manufacturers to include warning labels on products with hazardous amounts of BPA. A 30-day comment period, beginning immediately, must lapse before BPA becomes officially listed as a harmful chemical under Proposition 65. If it does, it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a flood of warning labels on canned goods and other polycarbonate products. To merit a warning, a substance must exceed a predetermined level. But with 290 micrograms a day, the amount of BPA found in the metal cans of food and beverages typically falls below the exposure level proposed by the state.
Even if a product is labeled “BPA-free,” there’s no guarantee it is safe to use. A study conducted by the University of Texas linked low doses of a BPA alternative, Bisphenol S (BPS), to estrogen disruption in animals . Researchers exposed rat cells to levels of BPS that are within the range people are exposed to daily and just like BPA, the compound interfered with how cells respond to natural estrogen: a natural hormone vital for reproduction and other bodily functions. “People automatically think low doses do less than high doses,” said Cheryl Watson, a University of Texas biochemistry professor and lead author of the study published in “Environmental Health Perspectives”. “But both natural hormones and unnatural ones like (BPS) can have effects at surprisingly low doses.”, echoing Dr.Beljanski’s concerns of thirty years ago.
Knowing the risks and learning how to make conscious choices to reduce risk to a minimum by embracing a holistic lifestyle is the first line of defense.
– Buy and store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers. If
using plastic storage containers, make sure hot food items have cooled
before placing them in the container. Keep in mind that fatty and acidic
foods promote leaching, so you may want to, at the very least, choose glass containers for those types of foods.
– Do not heat plastics – not even if they say they are microwave safe.
– Recycle, re-purpose or discard plastic bottles and food storage containers
that are worn, scratched, or cracked. Scratches become breeding
grounds for bacteria and potential gateways for leaching. You can extend the
life of your plastics by washing them by hand with a mild soap.
– Find safer substitutes for plastic toys your child mouths.
– If you have any plastic furnishings that emit a noticeable odor, find
As of today, Polycarbonate is, has been, and continues to be approved for direct food contact by the FDA, the EC (European Health and Consumer Protection Directorate), NSF International (an independent testing authority focusing on foodservice products), and the Japanese National Institute of Advance Industrial Science and Technology.
Keeping in mind that skin is our largest organ of absorption, we must think beyond food. Plastic molecules transfer easily from plastic jars or tubes into the expensive creams and ointments of your beauty regimen. For your skin care, choose a line of product in glass packaging such as French Secret®.
Although so much damage has already been done, I always advocate for heavy metal detoxification, proper supplementation for liver support, and regular use of probiotics to fend off the sea of environmental toxins. Your body will thank you!