Today the FDA ruled that the chemical BPA (full name: bisphenol-A) can still be used in food packaging, despite the insistence of many environmental health groups that BPA may result in a variety of health conditions—breast cancer and obesity are two. So, since you can't count on the federal government to protect you on this one, it pays to know why you should avoid BPA exposure, and how.
Just a few of frightening things you should know about BPA:
- Studies released last fall found that BPA both increases risk of breast cancer and blocks effectiveness of chemo drugs at battling the disease.
- A lot of our BPA exposure comes from our diets: One study found that when people ate just one serving of canned soup for five days in a row the BPA levels in their urine skyrocketed to more than 1000 times normal (BPA is found in the lining of most metal cans, though Campbells voluntarily removed it from theirs due to consumer demand).
- BPA may lower your immunity to everyday illnesses.
- According to the website Our Stolen Future (a great resource for information about endocrin-disrupting chemicals such as BPA), the chemical may be found in: the linings of metal cans, the linings of other food containers, hard plastic bottles and dining utensils, nail polish, CDs, car parts, electrical appliances and many more everyday consumer products. One strange way that you're exposed to BPA, probably multiple times per week, is on receipts from the grocery store (ever since I learned this I try to say "no" to receipts, though often cashiers shove them in my hand before I have a chance to reject them).
But even though I believe it's worth it to reduce BPA exposure when you can, there's no point in freaking out about it. BPA and similar chemicals are somewhat ubiquitous in our food and water supplies, so there's no way to avoid them entirely. And as my HGS colleague Barbara Kantrowitz pointed out in a recent post on the links between chemicals and breast cancer, there's far greater evidence that obesity, alcohol, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle up your risk of the disease—so keep in mind that our risk of disease is much more influenced by our personal habits than by invisible threats in our environment.
More on environmental health risks: