Wrapped in Plastic

Posted by paula on Jun 29, 2009 in Health |

We all want the best for our children, but it’s hard to know what we’re feeding them sometimes, especially when not everything that’s in the food is actually listed on the label. How is that possible? Sometimes the culprit is the food container itself.

For example, Bisphenol A (BPA) is an ingredient in plastics which are currently defined as food-grade. Minute amounts of BPA are believed to have a hormone-like effect on the body’s endocrine system, possibly causing chronic toxicity, and a bunch of other things (see this Wikipedia page for much more detail, including a list of studies).

BPA is in epoxy resin (the lining of all food cans) and polycarbonate, the strong, clear plastics used for water bottles and baby bottles. Internationally, the regulations on BPA vary wildly, from a complete ban through to statements saying that it’s safe. This is one area where we can’t just trust the regulators to protect us.

The release of BPA from polycarbonates is increased by putting the plastic under stress, such as detergents, microwaving, dishwasher, sunshine, physical stress, and high temperature. Many regulators have gone down the path of saying that BPA polycarbonates are ok when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. To me this seems inadequate, when the standard household dishwashing detergent is a harsh chemical. I don’t know anyone who uses “Velvet pure soap” (for example) as the only soap in their kitchen sink. And there is a recently slashdoted study of humans drinking from polycarbonate water bottles AT ROOM TEMPERATURE for two weeks, and coming up with measurable levels of BPA in their urine.

It is very difficult to avoid BPA completely. Even strawberries grown in polycarbonate greenhouses have been found to have BPA contamination. However, the highest average intake of PBA in humans is in infants and children, right when they are most vulnerable. There are a couple of key things you can do to reduce their exposure to BPA.

1) Don’t use a polycarbonate bottle, if you are bottle feeding. Yes, this will take some research. Don’t assume anything. Even brands that have introduced BPA-free models, like Avent, still have BPA-filled versions on the shelf too.

2) Check any other baby plastics you are using (spoons, sippy cups, ice-cube trays, etc) for their recycle symbol. Polycarbonates have the Recycle 7 symbol.

3) Check the Recycle symbol on pre-packaged foods, such as yoghurt, juice, water, etc. Avoid the No. 7 plastics, especially if they are the strong, clear plastics.

4) Offer fresh, non-wrapped foods as much as possible. ALL cans of food are lined with BPA epoxy resins.

5) When using commercial baby foods, go for the little glass jars and not the tins or plastics. Sadly, even the lids of baby food jars are lined in epoxy resin BPA plastics (so I don’t scrape the food off the lid any more) but this is better than being completely encased in it.

The more you look into it, the more you will find that it’s virtually impossible to completely avoid BPA. But don’t let that depress you. We deal with situations like this all the time at work. Use the 80-20 rule initially, and then go for continuous improvement as the resources (like adequate sleep) become available.

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Kate Devitt
Jun 29, 2009 at 7:08 am

Great article. Frightening to think that cans are lined with BPA epoxy resins. Do you have citations on this?

Jun 29, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Hi, Kate.

That reference in Wikipedia to their statement that “Epoxy resins containing bisphenol A are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans” is this:
Erickson, Britt E. (June 2, 2008). “Bisphenol A under scrutiny”. Chemical and Engineering News (American Chemical Society) 86 (22): 36–39.

Have I mentioned that I *love* Wikipedia?

Danny Yee
Jun 29, 2009 at 3:52 pm

A book that may be of interest: How Everyday Products Make People Sick


[…] blog is starting to look into some of these. Just quickly, topics you may be interested in include: Biphesenol-A (expressing kit), Nano-tech (washing machines, etc), Phthalates (PVC, etc) and mattress-wrapping. […]

Jul 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm

Just popping by to add some more links:

Avent currently has 13 BPA-free products but the standard bottles and expressing kit are not on the list.

Tommee Tippee tells us that BPA is safe, and while they do list 18 BPA-free products including their “closer to nature” bottles. But it seems I’ve still got a couple of their drink bottles that have to go 🙁



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