Q: I just read the article in the December issue of Consumer Reports about BPA in canned foods. Should I be concerned?
A: The Consumer Reports magazine has definitely increased awareness of the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) in food packaging. Here are answers to some of the questions that are being asked:
- What is bisphenol A? BPA is a high production volume chemical used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It can prevent corrosion of metal cans and prevent food contamination. In bottles, BPA increases heat resistance and durability.
- How does BPA get into the body? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, general population exposure to BPA is through the diet. BPA has been shown to leach from the protective epoxy linings of canned foods and polycarbonate water and baby bottles. For small children, direct oral contact with materials containing BPA may also be possible. People can also be exposed following treatment with BPA-containing dental sealants. Workers who synthesize BPA or formulate its resins can also be exposed.
- Why are people concerned about BPA? One reason people may be concerned about BPA is because human exposure to BPA is widespread. The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the CDC found detectable levels of BPA in 93 percent of 2,517 urine samples from people 6 years and older. The CDC data are considered representative of exposures in the United States. Another reason for concern, especially for parents, may be because some animal studies report effects in fetuses and newborns exposed to BPA. BPA is linked to the possibility of causing cancer, tumors, and developmental and hormonal changes.
- Should consumers be worried? At this time, the FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while it continues the risk assessment process. Based on its ongoing review, the agency believes there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects. However, the agency will continue to consider new research and information as they become available.
- If I am concerned, what can I do to reduce exposure to BPA? If you are concerned, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences lists the following personal choices to reduce exposure:
- Don't microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. BPA is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures.
- Avoid plastic containers with the #7 on the bottom.
- Don't wash polycarbonate plastic containers in the dishwasher with harsh detergents.
- Reduce your use of canned foods. Eat fresh or frozen foods.
- When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
- Use infant formula bottles that are BPA-free and look for toys that are labeled BPA-free.
For additional information on BPA, find several links at www.douglas.ksu.edu.