Even though the health dangers associated with bisphenol A (BPA) have been known for more than 70 years, it wasn’t until recently that companies began ditching the stuff due to increasing public awareness. For consumers, among the chief concerns were BPA’s estrogen-mimicking effects which, in addition to throwing off the body’s natural hormone balance, was linked to numerous health problems such as reproductive issues, birth defects, breast cancer, heart and liver disease and neurological disorders. In the face of growing evidence and consumer caution over BPA exposure, plastic manufacturers managed to turn the lack of consumer confidence into an opportunity. What did they do? They saturated the market with hundreds of BPA-free products! Problem solved?
With the arrival of the new BPA-free, greener, safer products on the shelves, consumers who had sworn off BPA plastics could once again enjoy plastic’s convenience without fear of toxicity. It turns out, it was a classic case of too good to be true. Unfortunately, it turns out that many BPA-free alternatives are now testing out to be as dangerous as the BPA-originals, and in some cases may be even more damaging to your health. So much so that a number of experts studying BPA and their toxic cousins now advise cutting exposure by ditching plastic altogether, be it BPA-free or otherwise. Here’s why:
You Are Ingesting a Lot More BPA Than You Think
Manufacturers are under no obligation to disclose the chemicals in the plastics they produce, most of us are unknowingly coming into contact with these endocrine-disrupting materials multiple times a day. They are leaching BPA and other unknown chemicals into our bodies through our food containers, water bottles, PVC pipes, canned foods and receipt paper. Unless you are making an extremely conscious effort, BPA is difficult to avoid, and buying BPA-free products is not the answer either.
“BPA-free” Doesn’t Mean Healthy or Toxin-free
When consumer pressure forced plastics companies to come up with BPA-free alternatives, that is what they got, but what they got wasn’t free of dangerous chemicals, just BPA. Among the more popular replacements for BPA were other members of the bisphenol family, particularly bisphenol S (BPS) which has similar endocrine-disrupting effects. So the switch from BPA to BPS and other chemical replacements didn’t result in safer product – just a chemically different one, whose potential effects are even less known. According to GreenMedInfo.com BPS may actually be worse due to its inability to biodegrade, as well as it’s potential to accumulate in the body for longer periods of time.
So what can we do? Here are a few simple ideas to help limit exposure:
Never, EVER, cook or microwave plastic containers, regardless of the manufacturer’s designation.
When you get home from shopping, transfer foods into glass containers for storage.
Taking a salad to the office for lunch? Use a mason jar instead of a plastic container.
Going to the gym? Try a glass-lined bottle or one made of stainless steel.
Buy whole, unprocessed foods wrapped in as little packaging as possible!
Collecting receipts? Use gloves when handling them or wash hands immediately afterwards.
How else to side step-some of the chemicals that can leech into your food and body? Here’s the Washington Post’s list of items to avoid and their alternatives:
hard plastic sports bottles
plastic food storage containers
hard and flexible packaging
plastic baby bottle components (nipple, ring, liner, etc)
plastic dinnerware and plates
plastic cleaning products
thermal receipt paper
canned food and drink
tissue paper and toilet paper
stainless steel water bottles
ceramic plates and dishes
unbleached wax paper
anything made from wool, cotton, hemp or plastic-free, biodegradable fibers
plastic-free cleaning products, such as baking soda, vinegar and essential oils
stainless steel or cast iron cookware
wire salad spinner
stainless steel ice-cube tray
natural rubber gloves
recycled, individually-wrapped toilet paper
We realize that making these changes can be expensive and time consuming. Pick one thing at a time to change and then slowly work towards the others. Even the smallest amount of decrease in your plastic exposure helps!