It’s good to see that finally Bisphenol-A (BPA) is starting to get a bit of attention in this country. Better late than never, I suppose. Earlier this year Kmart and Target decided to start the “phase out” of BPA in baby bottles, which is a good start but 2 years later than many other countries.
If I sound a bit grumpy that’s because I am. After years of researching this I still find it hard to believe that if a chemical is deemed hazardous and consequently banned in one part of the world, it can still be allowed to be used commercially somewhere else in the world.
BPA is an industrial chemical added to many types of hard, clear plastic to make it shatterproof. It’s found in Polycarbonate plastic which is PC or #7 in that little recycling triangle on the bottom of your plastic container. Not all #7 indicates it’s polycarbonate but I just avoid it anyway. It’s also found in some dental sealants, in fungicides, in carbonless paper (shopping receipts for eg) and in the epoxy resin that lines canned food. This is what has been in the news lately.
BPA was developed in the 30′s as an artificial oestrogen to be used in medicine. Because it is an artificial hormone it mimics oestrogen and inhibits testosterone. They ended up not using it in medicine and found that it was great to use in plastics. It became a booming industry. Producing 6 billion pounds of it a year. Problem is, we now know it leaches from plastic. Because it is essentially a hormone it is an endocrine disruptor and a carcinogen. It causes an increased risk of breast, ovarian and prostate cancers, changes in genital development, early onset puberty, obesity, insulin resistance, aggressive behaviour in girls and the list goes on.
Since the 90′s nearly 200 government funded tests have been conducted proving that BPA is dangerous to humans at much, much lower doses than previously thought. Now, the chemical industry has done everything it can to discredit these leading scientists and conduct their own studies (13 in total) which surprise, surprise have shown that BPA causes no harm to humans. Earlier this year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally changed it’s stance on BPA safety. YAY!! After years of experts in the field and consumer safety groups screaming out for the FDA to change it’s outdated position on BPA, they finally agreed with the National Toxicology Program which stated in 2008 that BPA was “of some concern for effects on the brain, behaviour and prostate gland in foetus’ , infants and children at current human exposures.” -Margaret Hamburg, FDA commissioner.
Canada was the first to ban BPA about 2 years ago. A group of environmentalists led by Rick Smith and Bruce Lowrie (authors of “Slow death by rubber duck” one of my favourite books,) organised a Baby Rally. They raised public awareness and then got a bunch of concerned, angry mums and their babies and took it to the government and won. Canada, did the right thing and due to public concern banned the chemical from baby products. Since then the EU has followed suit, California has restrictions in place and it looks like the US is well on the way too, although there is still a good chance they will succumb to industry pressure as is usually the case.
This brings me back to why I am so angry. I find it appalling that my children’s cousin who lives in Europe is getting a better start to life than my children. 6yrs ago I washed my daughter’s polycarbonate bottle in boiling water and I fed her tin food occassionally. I knew better with my next two kids but most Australians are only now hearing about BPA and Phthalates. Some people I talk to still don’t know anything about it.
If there is any doubt about the safety of a chemical then the chemical should be banned. The onus should be on the chemical industry to prove it’s safe not on the consumer to prove it’s not.
Food standards Australia & NZ (FSANZ) still maintain the levels of BPA in food are well within international safety limits. But those limits are ignoring the mounting evidence indicating that it is actually more dangerous at lower levels of exposure. Consumer groups believe the safety limit should be 20,000 times lower than what it is. The FDA is now reviewing its safety limit. It has been criticised by its OWN scientific board for being inadequate.
What to do? Well as a consumer you have a lot of power. If government and industry won’t ban BPA then just boycott it. Buy only BPA free products. If you aren’t sure then ring the manufacturers and ask. If they say it contains BPA or they aren’t sure then inform them that you wont be buying their products again. Avoid canned food. There is about five brands in the US that have BPA free tin food. Here I can only find “Eden Organics” If you live in Eastern Suburbs of Sydney I am getting a huge order of Eden baked beans, kidney beans etc so you can get them from me. Ask your local health food store to get them in. Remember it only got banned in Canada due to growing public concern.