How to Become a BPA Free Family

by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD on September 16, 2010

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No doubt you’ve heard about the harmful effects that BPA (Bisphenol-A) can have on health. As a busy parent you’re probably concerned but may be overwhelmed with yet another health hazard to watch out for.

It’s important to consider the evidence when looking beyond the hype of potentially harmful additives. Is BPA really that bad? And should you be taking extra steps to protect your family?

I hope to give you some answers by providing an overview of the potential risks of BPA, what’s being done to determine its safety and super easy ways to make your family BPA free (well, almost).

What and where is it? BPA is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastics and is found in epoxy resins, the lining of metal based food and beverage cans. As a result, it’s found in canned products and any item made with polycarbonate plastics such as food and drink packaging, food storage containers and water and baby bottles. Since the 1960s the FDA has allowed the use of BPA under its food additive regulation.

What are the risks? Until recent years the FDA has considered BPA safe. But results of recent animal studies, with BPA intakes similar to human consumption, have brought up the question of safety. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) reviewed the weight of the evidence and decided there was some concern for BPA’s effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current levels of consumption (see chart).

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The report concludes that many of the studies are conflicting and that the uncertainties of BPA’s safety remain. There’s a lack of human studies — and there are limitations when extrapolating results of animal studies to humans. So this doesn’t mean BPA isn’t safe, but there’s more research that needs to be done.

What’s being done? The FDA and NTP are calling for in-depth studies to clarify the risks of BPA. In the mean time, the FDA supports the effort to stop making BPA-containing baby bottles and feeding cups, and is looking for alternatives to replace BPA in products. See this report for more details.

How to reduce your family’s exposure: The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) found detectable BPA levels in 93 percent of 2317 urine samples (age 6 and older). Until we have more answers it makes sense to reduce exposure to BPA, especially in young children who are more vulnerable.

So here are four easy ways get your family on the road to being BPA free. The added bonus? Many of these changes are also good for the environment.

1. Switch from plastic food storage to glass: Before having kids I never had to worry about leftovers. But it seems almost every night my husband and I are packing away some of our dinner. These make great lunches or even repeat dinners.

pyrex

Switching to glass storage like Pyrex is a win win. It’s just nicer to store food in glass because it doesn’t absorb the odors the way plastic does. Oh, and it’s BPA free.

And if you are still using plastic, never microwave food in it because the heat causes BPA to leach into the food.

2. Reduce your use of canned goods: Now this is a tough one. There are many healthy canned items such as beans and tomatoes. Look for products that are boxed instead of canned like these Pomi tomatoes pictured and broth.

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But the reality is that many soups and beans are still canned. One of my goals is to make more beans in the slow cooker and freeze them as Stephanie suggests at A Year of Slow Cooking. And let’s face it, soup just tastes better when it’s homemade (again, perfect for the slow cooker).

And if you’re feeling really adventurous you can “can” your own food in glass jars. Simple Bites has some great posts on how to do it.

3. Choose stainless steel water bottles: Make the switch to a BPA-free water container like stainless steel over hard plastic and water bottles. I like stainless steel because it’s durable and many of the tops actually seem to keep the water from leaking.

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4. Choose “BPA free” products:While many baby bottles and sippy cups are BPA free, make sure “BPA free” is on the label or on the bottom of the cup. Companies are not required to tell consumers which of their products have BPA — but when you see the BPA free label you know it’s free of the chemical.

You can also check the bottom of the container to look for the number 7 which may indicate it contains BPA (some controversy about this). For more BPA free products check out The Soft Landing page and for top BPA free products in the grocery store see this article.

As new changes in regulations come about I’ll be sure to keep you informed. So tell me, have you been avoiding BPA for a while or are you new to all of this?

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

shelley davis September 16, 2010 at 9:28 am

I found something new. Ball has put out a freezer jar that is plastic and BPA free. These are great for kids lunch because they have screw on tops.

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD September 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Thanks Shelley. I’ll be on the lookout for them.

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Eurika September 16, 2010 at 10:48 am

Eden Foods does not use BPA to line their cans. As far as I know, they are the only food manufacturer with BPA-free canned beans, chili, etc.
http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=178

Also:
1. If you can’t afford to throw out all yr. plastic storage contnrs and buy glass, make sure the food is cool when putting it in the plastic contnr.
(stuff cools faster spread out in a flat pan). Remove it fm the plastic contnr before heating. A little twist of the contnr usually pops it out.
2. Never store hot liquids in plastic water bottles.

It seems that heat is what causes the BPA to migrate from the plastic into the food. So it makes sense that keeping things cool/cold while in contact with the plastic wd minimize the leaching of BPA into food/drink.

I’m enjoying your blog up here in Canada!

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD September 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Thanks for the tips Eurika! I will look for Eden next time I’m shopping.

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Sheryl Lozicki September 16, 2010 at 6:43 pm

I just recently switched out all of our plastic storage containers for this very reason. I feel so much better when the kids (now teens) reheat in the glass, instead of plastics!

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD September 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Sheryl, we are in the process of switching too. I only have a couple of plastic items left.

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Alysa Bajenaru, RD, CPT September 16, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Thank you for the practical tips! Now we have no excuses to get this stuff out of our homes.

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Nina September 17, 2010 at 11:58 am

Also, make sure to wash hands after touching receipts!
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-20011903-10391704.html

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Gina September 22, 2010 at 10:47 pm

We purged all the plastics and other items with BPA out of our home about 4 or 5 years ago as I started really learning more about the dangerous potentials.

I know the research is still questioned by many but, for my children, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

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genie September 23, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Our grocery store now has 2 brands of organic tomato puree in jars. No BPA there. Recently had in store coupons which made them the same as the canned stuff. I stocked up!

I’m guessing but I’ve not heard this – what about canned fish – salmon/tuna? That is a last minute dinner staple here!

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD September 23, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Genie — I believe most canned products contained BPA unless otherwise specified and that includes canned tuna. I still use canned products but am just trying to use less.

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Krista October 2, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Thank you for this reasonable article about BPA! I know I went a little crazy when I first found out about it, thankfully my son’s sippy cup was already BPA free and we never used formula!

However… because we couldn’t afford baby food I had a food grinder and used veggies and fruits… that were canned. I’m still kicking myself over that one. Thankfully I know better now and with my newest little guy getting ready to eat solids I have been a canning machine this summer so hopefully we will have plenty of home canned fruit to feed him over the winter! Of course they still have pesticide residue, but I’m sure the canned stuff does too so better to lessen at least one of the toxicants!

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Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD October 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Try not to worry too much about the past. Like I said, BPA is still considered safe there just are some questions now. Thanks for sharing!

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Jennifer @ Natural Parents Network May 1, 2011 at 9:56 pm

This is a great, easily understood and implemented list. We use mostly Pyrex and Corningware, but we also have some BPA free Ziploc containers. I do try and avoid heating them though, just in case. And for Genie, I have seen tuna in a jar before. Pricey, but most quality foods are.

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