When it comes to my health, and the health of my family, I like to play it safe. Recent news confirms that I’ve been doing the right thing by limiting my family’s exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA), an estrogen-like chemical used in polycarbonate plastics. BPA is used to make some reusable water bottles, clear plastic food-storage containers and some baby bottles; it’s also in the linings of some food and drink cans, and other things, such as dental sealants. Studies have linked BPA to the development of precancerous lesions and abnormal development of reproductive systems in animals.(Concerned about pesticides too? Find a list of 12 fruits and vegetables you should consider buying organic.)
Although the Food and Drug Administration has not issued a recommendation on a safe limit for BPA exposure, last week the agency said it had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children,” and would join other federal health agencies in studying the chemical in both animals and humans to determine what to do. (Click here to make sure you’re feeding your kids the foods their brains need to thrive.)
So although we don’t know how harmful BPA is to humans, what is known is that we’re all exposed to plenty of the chemical. In a 2005 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 95 percent of people screened tested positive for BPA. And now there’s enough evidence questioning the safety of BPA that Marion Nestle, a member of EatingWell’s nutrition and health advisory board, wrote in her blog The Atlantic's website that we should “invoke the precautionary principle: don't use it until it is proven safe.”
That’s bold advice (albeit a bit tough in a world filled with so many things containing BPA), but I’ll follow it as much as I can, especially since my main concern is my 10-month-old son. Luckily many baby-bottle and baby-product manufacturers have made the effort to remove the chemical from their products. When I’m shopping for feeding items such as cups, bottles and dishes for my son, I always make sure to look for the manufacturers BPA-free claims. (Find easy recipes to feed your kids fresh, healthy foods here.)
To minimize your infant’s exposure to BPA, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends:
• Breastfeeding your baby for at least 12 months whenever possible or, when that is not an option, using iron-fortified infant formula. Powdered infant formula mix typically has no detectable level of BPA. (Have older kids? Find 20+ easy and healthy kids' lunch recipes here.)
• Discard scratched baby bottles and infant feeding cups.
• Pay attention to temperature when heating your child’s breast milk or formula. Studies have found there is a very small amount of BPA in plastics and other packaging materials that can transfer to food and liquids. Additional traces of BPA levels are transferred when hot or boiling liquids or foods come in contact with packaging containing BPA.
• Check the labels on bottles and food-preparation containers. Discard all food containers with scratches, only use containers marked “dishwasher safe” in the dishwasher and only use container marked “microwave safe” in the microwave. Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. In general, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA. (3 foods that should be in your child’s lunchbox.)
What about you? Are you worried about BPA when it comes to your kids’ health? What are you doing about it? Share your comments.
Are you worried about BPA when it comes to your family’s health? What are you doing about it? Tell us what you think below.