Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics and is found in a multitude of plastic containers used by babies and children. It's used to harden the plastic and is found in a variety of containers.
The major route of exposure in humans is ingestion of BPA leached from materials contacting food or drinking water. Federal authorities and researchers have cited concerns over its potential link to developmental disorders in fetuses, infants, and children. Recent studies have shown BPA seems to stay in the body longer than previously believed and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), BPA is found in 95 percent of people tested.
Recent studies suggest that BPA exposure can impair brain function, leading to learning disabilities and age-related neurodegenerative disease. Plastics have been linked to endocrine disruption in babies, cancers, birth defects, and poor brain/nervous system development. Research also suggested a link between the chemical and prostate cancer, liver disorders, heart disease, and diabetes. In 2008, Canada banned the substance and similar proposals have been introduced in Japan and several European countries.
"The Ban Poisonous Additive Act of 2009," which would have banned BPA from all food and beverage containers was introduced in both the House and United States Senate earlier this year. Recently, Connecticut, not waiting for the federal law, passed its own law which bans any BPA products geared towards infant and young children. The Act takes effect to protect Connecticut children Oct. 1, 2011.
What products contain BPA?
A brief list to be aware of includes:
Refillable beverage containers
Sippy cups and baby bottles
Food storage containers
Protective linings in food cans
Impact resistant safety equipment
How do you identify a product with BPA?
Although complete elimination may not be possible, there are definite steps that can be taken to reduce exposure:
Choose smart plastics
Select safe plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2, and #4) and polypropylene (#5), which require the use of less toxic additives. They also are non-chlorinated.
Avoid choosing products that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) which are often found in baby bottles or sippy cups.
Avoid putting plastics in the dishwasher
Putting plastics in the dishwasher allows them to release dangerous chemicals when heated. Also, avoid using old and scratched plastic containers. Instead, clean plastics with a mild dish detergent.
Use glass or ceramic containers to microwave food and beverages
Avoid use of plastic containers to heat food in microwaves; they can degrade in the heat and excessive moisture. Be cautious of cling wraps, especially for microwave use. Wrap foods in butcher paper, waxed paper, or paper towels.
Be aware of canned food
Testing of canned foods found that BPA leaches from the liner into the food itself. Sensitive groups such as kids and pregnant women should limit canned food consumption. Beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels. Rinsing canned fruit or vegetables with water prior to heating and serving could lessen BPA ingestion.
Be aware of plastic products in your child's surroundings
This includes squeeze toys, rattles, bath toys, cribs, teethers, pacifiers, high chairs, sippy cups, and baby bottles. If elimination is not possible, then make sure they are cleaned regularly as a precaution. As an alternative, opt for toys and books made with natural wood, paper, cloth, or metal.
The old maxim "better safe than sorry" is the maxim of the "365 Ways to Keep Kids Safe" book. While 100 percent certainty is not the current state of the research and epidemiology, all recent studies reveal a dangerous causal link that should provide a red light to all parents and caregivers to remove these potentially dangerous items from harm to fetuses and children.
We encourage readers to notify us at the e-mail below of any products which are not contained in the above list, or any identifying features of a BPA product which are not contained in the checklist. We will add those to the upcoming chapter in the book and credit you as the source.