I remember a while back I was on the train home, coming back from the city (I was meeting up with one of my dear friends), and to pass the time I thought I’d listen to one of Wellness Mama’s podcasts. During the podcast, they mentioned how (spoiler alert!) the most common source for BPA wasn’t actually canned goods, but… wait for it… thermal receipt paper! (Dun dun duuuun!).
What is BPA?
BPA (bisphenol-A) is used in the making of many forms of plastic products like reusable water bottles, canned foods and drinks (it’s part of the epoxy resin that lines many metal cans, like those used for canned vegetables, fruits and meats), receipt paper, plastic bottles, and even medical devices. It’s a synthetic oestrogen making it a hormone-disrupting chemical.
Why BPA Poses Such a Problem
BPA became well-known and people began avoiding it like the plague when reports came out showing it was an endocrine disruptor and that it may in fact raise blood pressure. BPA has the potential to leach into foods and drinks from plastic bottles or canned goods. Factors like the acidity of what is stored in the plastic/can or its temperature can affect the amount of bisphenol-A that’s transferred into the drink or food.
And from there it ends up in our bodies! A study conducted by A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) found that 93% of people who were tested had detectable levels of BPA in their urine.
As I mentioned earlier, BPA is an endocrine disruptor, so it may also play a part in hormone imbalance, early puberty, infertility, low sperm count, higher risk of reproductive cancers, and other hormone-related issues.
Canada was one of the first countries to ban BPA from children’s products, with many other countries following suit afterwards. Countries like China, Denmark, Belgium, France and Austria have limited the use of BPA in food packaging.
Now, avoiding BPA seems like the best answer to solve this issue, however, it can be much more challenging than one might think.
Where BPA May Be Hiding
As we now know, bisphenol-A can be found in many, many plastics, particularly water bottles (which is one of the many reasons to avoid them), but here are some of the places you wouldn’t expect to find BPA hiding:
- Receipts: Thermal receipt paper is often lined with BPA, which can stick to your skin and be absorbed by your body. Things like movie tickets, airline tickets, and other receipts printed on thermal paper may all have traces of BPA on them. When you touch the receipt, the BPA on it can transfer from the receipt to your hand, and then may be absorbed by your skin (or if you touch food or your mouth) and enter your bloodstream.
Solution: Choose to skip the receipt.
- Canned foods/drinks: BPA can often be used in the lining of canned goods like veggies, fruits, soups, etc. As it is present during the high-heat and sterilisation processes, the levels of BPA may be even higher in these foods.
Solution: Opt for fresh or frozen veggies and fruit.
- Cans of soda: One of the many reasons you shouldn’t drink soda is the presence of BPA lining the cans. Even so-called “healthier” soft drinks which use stevia still line their cans with BPA.
Solution: Stop drinking soda (or make your own carbonated drinks using a SodaStream or other carbonated drink maker).
- Kitchen plastics: BPA can be found in many kitchen plastics like water bottles, plastic food storage containers, plates, cups, and utensils.
Solution: Source plastic-free kitchen supplies.
- Both plastic AND paper cups: we all know plastic cups are lined with bisphenol-A, but paper cups too can often contain it.
Solution: Bring your own reusable mug! (Both your body and the planet will love you for it ❤️).
- Plastic wrap: This common kitchen appliance often contains BPA and other plastic chemicals which do no good for your body.
Solution: Use wax wraps (you can even make your own! which I’ll show you how to do later on), glass storage containers, or even baking paper.
- Dental sealants: small amounts of BPA may leach from these immediately after application of the sealants to the teeth.
Solution: Have a chat with your dentist about other options before having any dental work.
- Coffee pots: It was a sad day when I learnt the hard truth that many coffee pots can contain BPA. What’s more, because hot water is used inside it, there is a higher chance of it leaching into the drink.
Solution: Don’t drink coffee… I’m only kidding! (I wish I could see some of your guys reactions 😂) Simply use a glass kettle or French press.
Why ‘BPA-Free’ Might Be Just As Harmful
On the podcast, I remember hearing them talk about why BPA-free might still not solve the problem at hand. This surprised me, as I thought it must take the toxic chemical out of most of these products. But sadly no.
BPA is one of the big problems with plastics, but it’s not the only one. While they may be taking out BPA from BPA-free products, they’re unfortunately replacing it with one that might be just as harmful.
Products labelled as “BPA-free” often contain alternatives like bisphenol-S (BPS) or bisphenol-F (BPF), both of which have been found to have more of an effect on the endocrine system than BPA.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products.
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What are some of the things you’ve changed in your life to help reduce BPA exposure?
Wells, Katie. (January 28, 2019). Hidden Sources of BPA (And Why You Should Care). Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/54748/hidden-sources-of-bpa/
O’Connor, Anahad. (December 8, 2014). BPA in Cans and Plastic Bottles Linked to Quick Rise in Blood Pressure. Well. Retrieved from https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/12/08/bpa-in-cans-and-plastic-bottles-linked-to-quick-rise-in-blood-pressure/
Rubin, Beverly S. Bisphenol A: An endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects. Science Direct. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960076011001063
Curtis, Sandra. (December 23, 2016). Is BPA on Thermal Paper A Health Risk? Plastic Pollution Coalition. Retrieved from https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/pft/2016/12/23/is-bpa-on-thermal-paper-a-health-hazard
Rathee, Manu. Malik, Poonam. Singh, Jyotirmay. Bisphenol A in dental sealants and its estrogen like effect. NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354837/