Friday, September 23, 2011

Thought plastic was harmless? Think again!

I'm sure you've seen "BPA" or "bisphenol A" in the news here and there over the past few years.  Sometime ago scientists found that BPA, which is traditionally used to make plastics, is an endocrine disruptor and linked to problems such as early puberty, hyperactivity, breast and prostate cancer and infertility. Since then, many companies have taken strides to produce BPA-free water bottles, plastic bowls and so on.  In 2010 Cananda became the first country to declare BPA a toxic substance and the EU banned BPA from baby bottles. 

Right now, we are awaiting for Caifornia Governor Jerry Brown to sign AB1319 which bans BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups.  An article in the San Francisco Chronicle debates whether this bill goes far enough--some hoped it would ban the use of BPA in infant food containers, but that piece got taken out of the legislation due to fears that it would prevent the bill from being passed.

When selecting bottles for my baby registry, I did have a good amount of luck finding pacifiers and bottles that are BPA-free. Also, the Environmental Working Group has a guide to buying safe bottles and fomula. However, mommy-to-be or not, I think we should all do what we can to limit our exposure to such a toxic chemical. 

Quick Facts on BPA (taken from the awesome Environmental Working Group):
  • An estimated 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced globally annually
  • BPAis fabricated into thousands of products including safety equipment, eyeglasses, computer and cell phone casings, and water and beverage bottles
  • BPA-based plastics break down readily, particularly when heated or washed with strong detergents
  • Trace BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.
  • You can find more facts here
A few ways to avoid BPA is to try to eat fresh foods and stay away from canned goods since all canned foods sold in the U.S. contain BPA in the can lining. Also, plastics marked with a #7 recycling symbol or that say "PC" for polycarbonate are plastics that you should avoid. If you can't avoid using a #7 plastic, then try not to microwave the plastic as it increases the chances of the bisphenol A leaching into your food.

We are at an interesting point politically with Republicans wanting to take away EPA authority on regulating our air and water to keep it clean and safe (among other things).  I worry that politicizing an issue like this will endanger ours and our childrens' livelihood. Obviously I am a die-hard liberal, but I honestly don't understand the reasoning behind conservatives wanting the government to halt environmental regulations that ultimately protect us.  I wish the federal government would take a stance similar to that of the EU and the state of California and ban BPA in infant products.  Obviously, our exposure to the toxic substance wouldn't go away completely but banning it from baby products is a great first step.

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