There is so much health information out there these days and it is hard to know exactly what to believe. BPA is one of the things that we hear so much about and its effects on hormones can play havoc with our mental health. It is my great pleasure to introduce my friend Nicola Saltman, a sustainability professional, writer, mum of 2 gorgeous boys and an all round beautiful person to explain what the fuss about BPA is all about:
Wandering down the aisles at your local supermarket, ever notice the ‘BPA-free’ label on plastic containers? Ever wondered what that actually meant? Surely, if marketers are promoting the absence of something then it cannot be a good thing. Right? Like ‘sugar-free’ and ‘fat-free’. So what is it exactly and why should you care…
What is BPA?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities to use mostly in producing polycarbonate plastics. Think hard plastic food and drink packaging like baby bottles, plastic food containers, water bottles – even takeaway coffee lids. BPA is also in epoxy resins, used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply pipes.
What’s the big deal?
Small amounts of BPA can leach into food and drink, with some studies raising health concerns about BPA exposure. It’s been touted as a thyroid/endocrine disruptor, a chemical that binds to hormone receptors and impairs all kinds of really important endocrine functions. And hormones going haywire is never a great thing.
As, Sarah Wilson points out in her recent blog on drinking coffee from takeaway containers, BPAs has the potential to play havoc with your health, even at low exposure. When the hot liquid passes through the plastic lid when you drink your coffee, the acidity levels and the heat can draw out the BPA from the plastic. When hard plastic containers are heated up, the same thing can happen, with other sneaky toxins winding up in your body. It kind of makes you think twice before you reheat your leftovers in plastic or warm up a non-BPA-free baby bottle.
So what are the authorities saying and doing about it?
Because of consumer concerns, Canada, the European Union, and selected US States have phased out the use of BPA in some products. Food Standards Australia and New Zealand however state that the phase-outs are not supported by the risk assessment conclusions on the safety of BPA – with research showing leached BPA levels are well below safety thresholds. More research is being undertaken. So any phase-out measures in Australia have so far been voluntary.
So, what do I do about it?
In the absence of a government phase-out, if you are anything like me, even the tiniest hint of a health risk is enough to sway my choice to minimise it (if not completely kill it). And why not, if it’s a simple thing to do…
1. Tackle the tupperware:
CHOICE has a listing on plastic food containers that can help you work out the goodies from the baddies, as not everything needs boycotting. And since the big brands now all carry BPA-free labelled products, you can easily avoid it.
Glass and stainless steel containers are the better way to go for hot food and drinks. If you reheat food in the microwave, avoid hard plastic containers. Glass pyrex or oven-proof dishes will do the trick, minus the toxins. For a wide range of BPA free containers and food storage products check out Biome Eco Store.
For your fave beverages, you can choose from a range of different metal drink bottles on the market as well as reusable coffee cups like KeepCup. These make good green sense since they cut down waste that goes to landfill. Scary but true fact: over a billion takeway coffee cups are thrown away each year in Australia (not to mention the millions of plastic water bottles)!
2. Care in cleaning:
Harsh detergents can accelerate BPA leaching, so I use mild eco-friendly soaps. They have the bonus benefit of having less impact on our waterways and natural environment. Health food shops sell these toxin-free detergents, plus most supermarkets.
4. Cut down on canned foods:
I live by the words ‘fresh is best’ as much as possible, but I also use the odd tin of beans, tomatoes and tuna. This is a tough one though. The main culprit in canned food is the lining and mainstream tin brands are yet to offer BPA-free alternatives. It’s changing, but there are specialist brands in health food stores and online, in case you struggle to find them.
What steps have you taken to reduce your BPA exposure? Share your tips and most loved products in the comments below.
Nicola Saltman is an experienced sustainability professional, passionate about making positive change in the world. She’s equally interested in all things health and nutrition. She works on environmental projects in Sydney, and also runs a freelance copy and content writing business – The Good Type – to help organisations who are in the business of ‘doing good’ tell their stories and promote their wares.