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How Bad Is BPA?

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 1/22/2014

You may have heard that BPA is dangerous to our health and even gone out of your way to purchase BPA-free water bottles. However, claims about the hazards may be exaggerated. How bad is BPA for us really and what is a common sense approach to its use?

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    What Is BPA?

    BPA is Bisphenol A, a chemical component of plastics—epoxy resins and polycarbonates—and has been labeled as toxic. Common belief is that it’s unhealthy, affecting the brain and behavior as well as the reproductive system, namely the prostate gland.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists claim that 90% of the urine samples representative of the U.S. population have traces of Bisphenol A present.

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    Exposure

    BPA can be found in clear plastic bottles. The substance is found in some clear plastic bottles, the white lining of cans, plastic dinnerware, some dental sealants, automobile parts, thermal paper cash register receipts and even toys, among other things.

    Drinking water from some plastic bottles, eating foods stored in certain plastic containers, and handling thermal paper can expose someone to BPA. The water bottle may leach plastic into the water even if it is sitting on a table at room temperature. BPA from thermal paper readily transfers to skin.

    In animals, BPA exposures mimic the sex hormone estrogen if blood and tissue levels are high enough.

    According to Grace Ross Lewis’ book, 1001 Chemicals in Everyday Products, people want to know if chemical additives are so dangerous, why are they permitted? The answer is simply chemicals are not dangerous for everyone and they do help to keep food safer and cleaner. But people with allergies, sensitivity or intolerance to certain chemicals, should avoid them.

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    How to Assess Toxic Exposure

    It can be a complicated process, but here are some factors that can affect the harm that comes to you from exposure to a toxic substance:

    • the inherent toxicity—the relative degree of harm—of a substance
    • what happens when the product enters the body
    • how often you are exposed
    • the amount of substance you come in contact with
    • the amounts of toxic chemicals already stored in your body
    • if you belong to a high-risk group
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    Opposing Views

    The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. This assessment is based on review of hundreds of studies.

    The resins in cans generally prevent dangerous pathogens from developing in food, and the trace elements found outweigh any risks.

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    New Tests

    A new analysis, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting by toxicologist Justin Teeguarden of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, shows that BPA in the blood of the general population is many times lower than blood levels that consistently cause toxicity in animals. The result suggests that animal studies might not reflect the human BPA experience appropriately.

    Everyone agrees that more tests should be done and that the dangers of this chemical in combination with others has still never been widely studied.

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    Solutions for You

    1. Use clean, dry, fresh glass bottles and fill them with filtered water.

    2. Choose fresh, organic foods that not only eliminate pesticides, but also the BPA leaching from cans and plastic residue from packaging.

    3. Wash your hands as soon as possible after handling receipts using thermal paper.

    4. Stay current on the subject, and look for and read warning labels on products.

    5. Learn how each toxic exposure can be different so you can assess the risk yourself.

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    Benefits for Commercial Use

    Materials from polycarbonates (including Bisphenol A) are extremely durable. According to the PC/BPA-Group PlasticsEurope, “Polycarbonate enables the manufacture of technical high performance products in sophisticated forms and sizes, ranging from bicycle helmets to stadium roofs."

    Right now this product is part and parcel of a modern lifestyle as manufacturers continue to expand its usage and utilize its unbreakable platform.

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