You might have read the words ‘BPA-free’ a lot lately, but what does this actually mean? Find out more in our mini-guide.
So, what exactly is BPA?
Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, is an industrial chemical which is added to many resin products and some types of plastic, including food containers, contact lenses and feminine hygiene products. It’s also used in epoxy resin, the material which lines the inside of some metal food and drinks cans as wells as ships’ hulls. As it’s such a common chemical that has been in use for several decades, it can be found in the urine of most adults!
What’s the BPA problem?
BPA is said to mimic the structure and function of oestrogen, releasing hormones around the body, particularly during early development. Due to its oestrogen-like shape, some scientists think BPA could eventually influence bodily processes, such as growth, cell repair, foetal development, energy levels and reproduction. What’s more, the changes can be passed down to subsequent generations.
BPA is bad for the environment
If it wasn’t enough that BPA can enter our food sources directly, human pollution is also adding to the problem. When discarded plastics are exposed to high levels of UV radiation and salt (yes, both found in our oceans!), they degrade, leaving behind traces of BPA, which leach into our water sources.
BPA has been shown to cause reproductive disorders in crustaceans and shellfish. While testing on marine animals has been somewhat limited, test results so far show that BPA can affect the growth and development as well as the reproductive capacity of a number of aquatic organisms including reptiles, amphibians and fish.
What’s more, BPA can bioaccumulate within animals, with greater concentrations occurring further up the food chain all the way to top predators, such as sharks, dolphins, seals… and us! You only have to think of what humans eat, people are also eating the very same fish which have been exposed to the broken-down toxins – yuck!
How do I cut back?
- Using BPA-free products
Any product made using hard plastic probably contains BPA. Instead, look for products specifically labelled as BPA-free. If a product isn’t labelled, keep in mind that some plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
- Cut back on cans
Use fresh, dried or frozen produce. Most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin, so it’s best to avoid canned foods and drinks.
- Avoid heat
Avoid microwaving food in plastic containers or putting them in the dishwasher, because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA or other harmful chemicals to leach into foods.
Clingfilm is especially one to keep your eye on! Using reusable silicone or beeswax wraps both work as great alternatives… and watch out for bottled water that might have been left in the sun!
- Use (reusable!) alternatives
Buy and store products in glass, porcelain or stainless-steel containers instead of plastic. Not only will this help your plastic footprint, but it’ll help reduce your risk from exposure to BPA – as well as our marine life’s!
By selecting plastic products carefully, then reusing and recycling where possible, we can all make a difference!