As we reported last week, pregnant women should avoid or limit their exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical frequently used in the manufacturing of plastic food containers and can liners. Now, it seems that use of BPA in food containers may not be long for this world… at least in Canada. Last week, the Canadian government added BPA to its list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Policy Act of 1999.
BPA had previously been banned from baby bottles in Canada, as the substance may transfer to foods and liquids. This was in response to concern about hormone-like effects of the chemical on the neurological development of fetuses and infants. However, after more exhaustive studies were completed and considered, the use of BPA is now to be curbed in everything from plastic food containers to toys to medical devices throughout Canada.
Canada is the first country to ban the use of BPA, which has been under intense scrutiny in the past few years and remains controversial. Recently, the European Food Safety Authority stated there was not enough evidence to assess the effects of BPA on human health. In the U.S., the FDA declared BPA to be safe in 2008. However, more recent evidence suggests even low doses of BPA may have effects in laboratory animals, which has raised concerns about the chemical among federal health officials. As a result, the CDC, NIH and FDA are currently investigating the effects of BPA on animal and human health. The results of these studies are expected in one to two years. Meanwhile, the FDA supports voluntary industry efforts to eliminate the use of BPA in the manufacturing of infant bottles and cups. As of January 2009, most U.S. manufacturers voluntarily began making baby bottles “BPA free.”
While the scientists, governments and industry experts figure this one out, it seems the safest bet is for everyone to limit their exposure to BPA. Here’s what you can do:
- Avoid food containers marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 as these may have been made with BPA. Plastics labeled with codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA.
- Do not put very hot foods or liquids in containers that may contain BPA.
- Microwave foods and liquids in glass or ceramic dishes rather than plastic.
- Discard scratched plastic bottles and cups, as more BPA may be leeched from such items.
- Limit intake of foods and beverages packaged in hard plastic and tin cans to minimize potential BPA exposure. As always, minimally processed foods are the best choice nutritionally.
- Feed infants breast milk. If using infant formula, purchase newer BPA-free baby bottles rather than using older hand-me-down bottles manufactured prior to 2009. Powdered infant formula has no detectable BPA.