What Is BPA and Why It’s Bad for You

Learn more about what is BPA, where it is found and its risks.

man holding bottled water

Bisphenol-A, or better known as BPA, is an industrial chemical that may find its way into people’s food. Meaning to say, it is a synthetic compound that is added to many commercial products including food containers, baby bottles, and hygiene products. In addition to that, BPA is also used to make epoxy which is used to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops, and water supply lines. Some dental sealants and composites may contain BPA.

These are some of the products that contain most Bisphenol-A :

  • Items packaged in plastic containers
  • Canned food
  • Toiletries
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Thermal printer receipts
  • CDs and DVDs
  • Household electronics
  • Eyeglass lenses
  • Sports equipment
  • Dental filling sealants

Bisphenol-A was first discovered in the 1890s but was later used and developed by chemists in the 1950s to produce strong and resilient polycarbonate plastics.

Health experts believe Bisphenol-A to be toxic resulting in a lot of negative health benefits. For instance, the body is sensitive to changes in hormone levels. BPA is said to have the ability to mimic the structure and function of the hormone estrogen. It can bind to estrogen receptors as well as influence bodily processes such as growth, cell repair, fetal development, energy levels, and reproduction.

In contrary to this belief, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) states that BPA is safe but at the very low levels that occur in some foods. This assessment is based on a review of hundreds of studies. The FDA then suggests minimizing the exposure to the chemical. Listed below are some of the recommendations to limit BPA exposure.

  • Avoid packaged food. This includes canned foods and foods packed in plastic containers. It would be better to avoid these foods and instead eat fresh, whole products.
  • Stay away from Bisphenol-A products. It is better to drink in glass bottles than the plastic one that might contain BPA. If you are not sure if a container is BPA-free, look if it is labeled with recycling numbers 3 and 7 or the letters “PC”. Plastic containers that are marked with the mentioned numbers and letters are most probably made with BPA. Using alternatives like glass, porcelain, or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids are much better.
  • Be selective with toys. Make sure that the plastic toys you are buying for your child are BPA-free, especially toys that are more frequently chew or suck by the young ones.
  • Don’t microwave plastic. Store and microwave foods in glass than in plastic because according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, plastics may break down over time allowing BPA to leach into foods.
  •  Buy powdered infant formula. Liquids are likely to absorb more BPA from containers, so it is recommended to buy powdered products over the liquid ones from BPA containers.

So how does Bisphenol-A enters the body?

BPA exposure is mainly through diet. Not all BPA is sealed into the product when containers are made. Some parts of it broke free and mix with the container’s contents once food or fluids are added. So, the BPA level in the body is noted to be particularly high on those who eat in packaged and canned foods as well as bottled milk.

These are the possible negative results of Bisphenol-A:

BPA might cause infertility to both sexes

It was found in one study that women with frequent miscarriages had about thrice as much BPA in their blood. In another study, women undergoing fertility treatments (those with lower egg production) have higher levels of BPA.

On the other hand, a separate study found that men with the highest BPA more likely to produce lower-quality embryos and 3-4 times more likely to have a lower sperm concentration and low sperm count. Furthermore, men working in BPA manufacturing companies in China are reported to have 4.5 times more difficulty with erection and less overall sexual satisfaction.

Note that more studies are needed to strengthen the body of evidence available.

It has a negative effect on babies

Babies that are born to BPA-exposed parents are underweight by 0.5 lbs (or 0.2 kg) upon delivery. They even have a shorter anogenital distance which points to BPA’s hormonal effect during development.

The babies are also noticed to be more hyperactive, anxious and depress. They also show 1.5 times more emotional reactivity and 1.1. times more aggressiveness.

Finally, early exposure to BPA may influence prostate and breast tissue development and is linked to the risk of cancer.

Animal studies support these claims, however, human studies are less conclusive.

It is linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Human studies have examined the link between BPA levels and blood pressure as well as diabetes. Below was the reported results of the studies.

  • 27-135% greater risk of high blood pressure
  • 18-63% greater risk of heart disease
  • 21-60% greater risk of diabetes
  • 68-30% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes

Interestingly, some other studies found no connections between BPA and these diseases.

Raise the risk of obesity

Obese women are observed o have 47% higher BPA levels than their normal-weight counterparts. In addition to that, a few studies with participants that are higher in BPA is 50-85% more likely to be obese as well as 59% more likely to have a large waist circumference.

These similar patterns were observed in children and adolescents.

The studies are however linked to the increase in animal models’ weight and have not strong confirmation with human models.

Link to other health problems

Exposure to BPA might be also connected with other health issues:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Premature delivery
  • Asthma
  • Liver function
  • Immune function
  • Thyroid function
  • Brain function

Conclusion

BPA effects are still in question, but considering the several negative effects it has, limiting exposure to the chemical is one of your best weapons against it. The pregnant women, in particular, should limit the exposure during the early periods.

Furthermore, those people who occasionally drink beverages and eat food from plastic bottles or can do not have reasons to panic.

Finally, when it comes to diet, fresh whole foods are highly recommended for a healthy lifestyle than foods that are packed in plastics or cans.

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