Today we are starting our series on reducing plastic consumption. I have some upcoming posts show casing some wonderful plastic free alternatives but before we get there we need to lay down some groundwork on why plastic can be a problem.
While there are many issues with plastic, one of the most common issues lies with bisphenol-A (BPA). This common chemical leached from plastic into our water and food is widely found “contaminating”-if you will- our bodies. We are exposed mostly through the food we eat and the majority of us have much too high of levels, up to 8 times the “safe amount”. (1) Over 92% of the US population tested positive for BPA exposure. Why should this concern us? Well, if we want to protect our brains, lower our chances of cancer (both breast and prostate) and diabetes and protect our children when we are pregnant and they are young, we should pay attention!
Here are just a few overviews of studies done on BPA and it’s negative effects.
1)Linked to Brain and Behavior Problems
One study found that BPA given to pregnant mice had a negative effect on the brain and behavior of the offspring. They also found that exposure to adult female mice had a negative effect on their maternal behavior. (2). And this was a low “environmentally relevant dose” of BPA, so they weren’t superloading the mice with BPA. Any time a chemical changes the natural behavior of animals (or humans), we should be concerned.
Another study took samples from pregnant women to see what their BPA exposure was when pregnant and then tested their children when two years of age. They found that BPA was linked to externalizing behaviors in 2-year-old children, especially among female children.(3) So, this change of behavior was also noted in humans as well as mice.
2) BPA is an Endocrine disruptor and it’s Effects can lead to Obesity and Diabetes and could even be a factor in Schizophrenia.
One study, once again using relevant doses of BPA, found that BPA exposure can lead in insulin resistance and obesity related diseases. (4) In other words, if you are trying to prevent diabetes, you should avoid BPA’s!
Another study exposed pregnant mice with BPA and found that it effected not only the offspring but the mothers long term as well in regard to insulin resistance. During their pregnancy it aggravated the normal insulin resistance of pregnancy and also decreased their tolerance to glucose as well as increasing plasma insulin. 4 months post-partum, the treated females weighed more than the untreated mice, and had greater insulin resistance. Similar results were found in the male offspring of the mice. (5)
Because of it’s endocrine disrupting effect, some theorize that BPA and other related chemicals could be one cause of schizophrenia. (9)
3) BPA Acts as an Xeno-Estrogen (which has the possibility to increase rates of estrogen related diseases such as breast cancer)
Another disturbing action of BPA is that it acts as an estrogen in the body. Considering that we are exposed to rather high amounts of this chemical, this is a concern. (6) I personally feel that we should be very careful with any outside chemicals (or foods, like soy) that have the ability to change our hormonal balance, and this includes men and women.
In fact, when they exposed pregnant mice to BPA, they found that it did alter the development of the fetal mouse mammary gland. (7)Besides the obvious danger of breast cancer it has also been linked possibly to prostate cancer. (10)
All in all, BPA has a wide range of consequences and it’s especially important for pregnant women and young children to have a limited exposure to BPA. I find all of the above concerns worthy of notice and certainly plan on continuing to reduce our exposure as much as possible.
What is BPA found in?
Canned foods, hard plastics (often used in baby bottles, kid’s cups, etc. ) and credit card receipts are some of the most common carriers of BPA. Just cutting out canned foods will greatly reduce your exposure to BPA. Eden Foods is supposed to now carry BPA free canned products. You can also now buy BPA free plastic water bottles, baby bottles, and other children’s products (though I prefer to go completely plastic free). When buying beverages or other products in plastic, the recycle symbol on the bottom of the plastic container will give some information to you. Plastic number 7 often contains BPA, so avoid number 7 plastic when possible. Other ways to reduce BPA exposure include not microwaving polycarbonate plastic food containers as it may start to break down overtime. When possible, opt for glass, porcelain, or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids. If you are going to use plastic to store food, wait until the food is cold before storage. Also, if you use bottles, use ones that are free of bisphenol A. You can even buy beautiful glass bottles now!
For more ideas on how to reduce your plastic consumption ( and BPA exposure) keep checking back here for this ongoing series or sign up for my RSS feed , so that you never miss a post!