What’s the deal with BPA?
Yesterday, I received a statement from the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association), the well-respected organization that, among many other functions, sets safety standards for many of the most common baby products on the market. In this statement, the JPMA continues to deny the risk of using baby bottles produced with BPA (bisphenol A). The media has been having a field day with this topic over the past six months, mostly stemming from the work of an organization called the Environmental Working Group. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not sure what to make of all the fuss.
A few weeks ago, the Today show ran a segment about BPA that my mother happened to see. She called me straight away to tell me to check my beloved Lululemon water bottle to make sure it was BPA-free. In spite of the fact that it was labeled with the recycle symbol and the number 7, which the Today Show said was a sure sign of BPA, I called Lululemon to inquire. Sure enough, the bottle is BPA-free, and it turns out that the number 7 plastic is a general category, and while many things in that category have BPA, others do not. So if I’d acted based on the information I got from the Today Show alone, I would have tossed a perfectly good water bottle in the trash.
OK, so the media isn’t perfect, but are they right about the danger of BPA? The JPMA states unequivocally that all legitimate scientific evidence says that the trace levels of BPA found in the most common consumer goods pose no health risk to children, adults or fetuses.
According to information on bisphenol-a.org, “an average adult consumer would have to ingest more than 600 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds) of food and beverages in contact with polycarbonate every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the level of BPA that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set as safe.”
So that’s one opinion. But ask the scientists who are researching the effects of BPA on mice, and they’ll tell you something else entirely. They’ve found connections between BPA exposure and chromosomal abnormalities, obesity, hyperactivity, early puberty. And so on. They say that these problems occur at lower levels of exposure than the EPA says are safe, and they also have found that products containing BPA can leach the chemical at a much higher rate than expected, under certain circumstances. They are questioning the connection between the popularity of BPA and the rise in obesity, the trend towards earlier puberty and even the spike in hyperactivity disorders. It’s not such a far-fetched idea.
So although I usually follow the JPMA on most safety-related issues, in this case, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the risks, however unproven or debatable those might be. There are a lot of BPA-free options out there for baby bottles, and we have pulled all those that do contain BPA off our shelves. And I’m sticking with my BPA-free water bottles.
But I’ve discovered that BPA isn’t going to be as avoidable as I (or my mom) had hoped. Even though my water bottle is BPA-free, the 5-gallon jug of Poland Spring water in my kitchen probably isn’t. Nor is my Brita filter. (See comments below to explain this correction). Both are type 7 plastic, that high-risk general plastic category. And for formula-fed babies, eliminating the BPA from bottles is a good step, but many formula varieties are packaged in cans treated with BPA. What’s a mother to do?
It would be nice to have a straight answer about this. But it’s not happening any time soon. Both sides claim that the other is biased and/or inaccurate. But regardless of the truth, all the pressure from the media is bringing about swift changes, and major manufacturers are being forced to move away from using BPA in products that touch our food. So one way or another, it hopefully won’t be a source of concern for too much longer.