Should you be uneasy about that refillable water bottle you’ve been using? Maybe. Health-news headlines are yelping about bisphenol A (BPA), a suddenly scary component of plastic that’s hiding in plain sight in polycarbonate water bottles, water pitchers, baby bottles — even liners in canned foods. What’s so bad about BPA is that animal studies have linked it with cancer, miscarriage, fertility, obesity, immunity, and sexual-development problems. But that doesn’t mean you have to toss half the contents of your kitchen into a toxic-waste dump. Here’s our advice on staying safe. And sane.
How to Recognize the Real Thing
Bisphenol A is found in clear, hard, shatterproof plastics. Often, the letters PC (for polycarbonate) and/or the number 7 will be stamped in the little recycling triangle on or near the bottom of the container. But not every plastic stamped with a 7 contains BPA; your biggest clue is to look for hard, see-through, unbreakable things. Disposable soft drink and water bottles and liquid-medicine containers (like cough syrup bottles) are not polycarbonate and do not contain BPA. So while everyone is having a fit about disposable bottles for environmental reasons — and rightly so — it’s only the rigid refillable kind you need to worry about for health reasons. Make it easy by remembering the numbers: Only drink from those with numbers 4 and 2 in their triangles, or if need be, 5 and 1. In our opinion, you should avoid any with 3, 6, or 7 (not just for BPA reasons).
How Risky Is It, Really?
Not everyone agrees, even though low levels are estimated to be in the bodies of 9 out of 10 Americans. The FDA, the plastics industry, and the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis have all concluded that BPA levels are probably too low to be hazardous for adults. But some prominent BPA researchers say harmful effects begin at levels lower than those the government says are safe.
What has people really freaking out is that babies and kids may be at higher risk, according to the U.S. National Toxicology Program. BPA acts like a hormone in the body, and studies suggest that at the levels young children may be exposed to, there could be a danger of early puberty, hyperactivity, immune-system changes, and low sperm counts. Moms-to-be can protect their kids even before they’re born by not getting any mercury or composite dental fillings during pregnancy (use gold). Many experts believe these materials release high concentrations of mercury and BPA during application.
What You Can Do Right Now
Even if you can’t dodge exposure to this ubiquitous plastic the way you can dodge a playground ball, you can minimize your contact.
Don’t heat anything that might have BPA in it. BPA is in plastics because it makes them lightweight, shatterproof, extremely clear, and heat resistant. But when these plastics are warmed up, BPA leaches out of them 55 times faster than it does at room temperature. Rates stay high even after the contents cool. So:
· No microwaving in hard, clear, plastic containers — use ceramic or glass.
· No heating cans of baked beans (or cans of anything) on the grill.
· No pouring hot tea into your polycarbonate water bottle.
· No preparing baby formula with hot water directly in a polycarbonate baby bottle.
Replace your clear, hard, refillable plastic containers. Our recommendations:
· Serve hot foods and drinks in glass or ceramic containers.
· Get babies BPA-free plastic bottles (safer than glass).
· Get older kids and yourself BPA-free plastic water bottles — more and more are in stores. We also like the stainless steel and aluminum bottles that are now available.
For now, buy mainly fresh or frozen food. Currently, as many as 80% of cans contain BPA. Some brands are BPA-free, which is good news if you don’t have time to make black beans from scratch tonight. But if cans aren’t labeled BPA-free, think twice. This is particularly true for the two types of canned foods that leach the most BPAs from their liners:
· Fatty foods, such as coconut milk, salmon, creamy soups, and tuna packed in oil
· Acidic foods, such as tomato products and some juices.
Go fresh whenever possible. But that’s our advice in general.
* Source: Real Age Inc.
Michael Skyler is the owner of the Earthquake Supply Center, an earthquake, disaster and emergency preparedness supply center. For information and supplies contact him at 415.459-5500 or visit http://www.earthquakesupplycenter.com