Reversing Direction On BPA (Bisphenol A)

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The ungodly screech of brakes that you’ve been hearing since mid January just happen to be the wheels of government as it shifts gears and reverses itself. Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it had come to agree with the U.S. National Toxicology Program after all, and indeed there was reason for “some concern” about the safety of industrial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) exposure for fetuses, infants and children.
We’ve talked before about BPA… the worrisome results of research, the bans by several U.S. states and the Canadian government, and the questionable accuracy of media reports on the subject. As a business owner who may be using re-usable water bottles as a promotional tool, or to help your business be more “green”, the most recent reversal in position by the FDA should have you prepared to answer questions about BPA. Educating your staff and your customers about the issues, and how to use water bottles safely are very important now.
Research from the late 1990s has linked BPA to a variety of health effects, and experts are especially troubled by low doses of BPA exposure that happen during critical windows of development. According to the Centers for Disease Control, CDC, more than 90% of American have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies – hardly surprising since virtually anything around us from baby bottles, reusable water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, lenses in glasses, CDs and DVDs and electronics all are likely to have it. The chemical is also used in the coatings of almost all food and beverage cans, and has been found by researchers to leach from the containers into food or beverages, even cold ones.
Back in the fall of 2008 the FDA issued a draft assessment that assured us BPA was safe. Only a month later the National Toxicology Program disagreed and issued a report voicing “some concern” that BPA exposure during pregnancy or infancy might be troublesome for long-term health, based on findings from more than 100 published studies by government scientists and university labs. During 2009 more studies were published — independent academic research raising continuing concerns; large scientific studies funded by industry groups dismissing them.
Recent data has shown health effects from BPA even at low doses, lower than the levels the FDA has been telling us are safe.
Not surprisingly, businesses in the U.S. and Canada have already moved away from BPA, and the six largest manufacturers of baby bottles and sippy cups are already producing BPA-free products. Food manufacturers are working to find ways to cut the need for BPA in linings of food containers. The trouble is, there are a lot of food safety, durability and other requirements that must be met by whatever takes the place of the troubled chemical. The FDA promises help in getting BPA alternatives approved.
Sounds like things are moving in the right direction.
As this continues, you’ll need to beware of the ratings hungry journalism that passes for news, especially repeats of TV reports that suggested we all turn over plastic bottles in search of resin ID codes #3, #6 and #7 to identify plastics with BPA, it turns out that these codes have nothing to do with a product being made from bisphenol-A. If you’re especially worried, look for unbreakable BPA-free plastic like polyethylene, a milky, less-shiny plastic (sometimes marked with recycling code 1 and/or the abbreviation PET) that doesn’t leach BPA. Other plastics not made with BPA are high density polyethylene (2, HDPE), low density polyethylene (4, LDPE), or polypropylene (5, PP).
If you (or your customers) have infants or young children about, here are some safe ways to use the BPA containing plastics you already own…

  • Urge everyone to clean with soap and water, but not excessively hot water.
  • Get rid of a bottle, cup or any product once it looks worn, has cracks, or starts to degrade.
  • Don’t put boiling water right into a BPA-containing plastic bottle, instead let the water cool to lukewarm first.
  • Never microwave or use a container in the dishwasher unless the item is clearly labeled to be “microwave” or “dishwasher” safe.
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