BPA (or biphenyl A) is a chemical that is used in some containers that hold foods and liquids. BPA is used in the manufacture of the clear plastic known as polycarbonate, where its main purpose is to make that material hard and durable. BPA is also used to line the insides of the tin cans that hold foods because it helps decrease bacterial contamination.
Why the buzz?
The trouble is, BPA is what’s called a synthetic estrogen. As you probably know, estrogen is a hormone that’s made naturally by our bodies, but our bodies must regulate how much estrogen we have in our system. Too much of the hormone is not a good thing.
Unfortunately, however, the full effects of BPA exposure and how much is too much are still being researched. But some scientists are concerned that frequent exposure to BPA could have adverse effects on a person’s endocrine system, particularly when that exposure happens to infants and young children. The effects might include early puberty, cancer, and trouble getting pregnant (infertility) later on.
What can you do?
First, don’t panic. Again, these risks are theoretical and are still being tested. But you can take steps to minimize your and your children’s exposure to BPA.
In 2009, the FDA mandated that all baby bottles and Sippy cups be free of BPA.
Look for the “BPA-free” label. BPA-free products are becoming increasingly easy to find, so why risk it? The most difficult things to find are canned foods that are BPA-free. But some companies are now certifying that they are using BPA-free cans.
All this doesn't mean, by the way, that you can’t ever eat anything from a can that’s not BPA-free; it just means that you may not want to do so every day—and that you definitely want to limit the amount you feed to your children.
If you are pregnant, this is probably a good time to go the extra step and eliminate as much BPA as possible from your diet. BPA levels are detectable in the umbilical cord blood, so BPA apparently can get transferred from mother to fetus. Again, the effects are unknown but concern is greatest for a growing baby and child.
Avoid clear plastics labeled “#7” or “PC” (for polycarbonate). These are most likely to contain BPA.
Don’t microwave foods in plastic containers. It is thought that heat increases the release of BPA into the food.
Throw away store receipts, or keep them away from children—for some reason, many cash register tapes contain BPA.
If you use formula for your infant, try to buy it in glass bottles. Or, if you buy canned formula, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends getting powdered formula, which can then be diluted with water.