Tips to avoid BPA exposure
Friday, October 17, 2008

Tips to avoid BPA exposure

Although completely eliminating exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) may not be possible, there are steps you can take to reduce your family's exposure to this chemical by avoiding common sources and limiting exposure for the highest risk groups.

The developing fetus and baby are the most vulnerable to BPA’s toxic effects. Unfortunately they also have the most intense BPA exposure of any age group. Many parents who have replaced their polycarbonate baby bottles are unaware that BPA contaminates liquid baby formula sold in metal cans. Since formula can make up 100% of a baby's diet over her first 6 months of life, parents should choose BPA-free types

Adults ingest much less BPA than babies. But a recent study linking BPA exposures in adults to heart disease and diabetes raises concerns about the safety of current exposures. Adult exposure comes primarily from canned foods and polycarbonate food containers, but BPA-containing medical devices could also be a source. Pregnant women and older children should avoid BPA. Eat a varied diet, avoid canned foods, and don't use polycarbonate plastics for warm food or drinks.

BPA in formula and baby bottles

The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that babies have 12.5 times more BPA exposure than adults, and EWG is concerned that FDA has seriously underestimates exposures for many babies. Recent tests by Environmental Working Group and the Canadian government, and a 1990s test by FDA show BPA leaching from metal cans into all brands of liquid formula. Powdered formula appears to be BPA-free. Therefore, EWG recommends that you choose powdered formula if your baby tolerates it. [Read more about BPA in formula and bottles and EWG's efforts to reduce babies' exposures.]

Most manufacturers now make BPA-free baby bottles. Glass is the safest and most durable option. Never microwave baby food or drinks in plastic containers. Bottles used to pump and store expressed breast milk by the brand Medela are also labeled BPA-free.

BPA in canned foods

Almost all canned foods sold in the United States have a BPA-based epoxy liner that leaches BPA into the food. EWG tested 97 canned foods and found detectable levels of BPA in more than half of the foods. [Read about EWG's food and formula tests]. The highest concentrations were in canned meats, pasta and soups. Only 1 manufacturer claims to use no BPA. Eden Foods uses an alternative technology for canned beans but not for its tomato-based products. Pregnant women and children should limit their consumption of canned foods to avoid BPA. Rinsing canned fruit or vegetables may reduce the amount of BPA you ingest.

BPA in water and food containers

Less BPA leaches from plastic water bottles and food containers than from cans into canned foods and baby formula. Nevertheless it is good to take simple precautions to reduce your exposure.

Polycarbonate plastics are rigid, transparent and used for food storage containers and water bottles, among other things. Trace amounts of BPA can migrate from these containers, particularly if used for hot food or liquids. Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA.

When possible, avoid polycarbonate, especially for children's food and drinks. This plastic might be marked with the recycling code #7 or the letters “PC”. Plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom are better choices because they do not contain BPA. Avoid putting any plastic containers in microwaves. Wash plastics on the top shelf of your dishwasher or by hand.

Some metal water bottles lined with an epoxy-based enamel coating could leach BPA. Look for stainless steel bottles that do not have a liner. Avoid using old and scratched plastic bottles.

Other sources of BPA

BPA has countless uses, several of which have been highlighted as an exposure risk. BPA is a component of non-metal dental fillings, it is in thermal paper for many receipts, and it is increasingly used in medical devices. There is little research about the magnitude of exposures from these products.