What Chemicals Are in Food? Simple Solutions to Avoid Harmful Toxins in Food

By Melinda Wenner Moyer, "How you can avoid BPA, mercury, pesticides and more chemicals in your food.," September/October 2011

How you can avoid BPA, mercury, pesticides and more chemicals in your food.

"Thank you for this article. This has long been a concern for our family. Luckily my in-laws raise grass fed beef, chicken, and organic pork. I would love a source for more food companies that have eliminated BPA and other toxins from...

How I’m Dodging the Chemical in Canned Foods, BPA (bisphenol A)

Canned beans and diced tomatoes have long been staples in my pantry. (I cook a lot of Italian, Mexican and Indian dishes.) Unfortunately, to prevent corrosion, many tin cans are lined with a resin containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical similar in structure to the hormone estrogen. BPA easily detaches from the resin and can contaminate the food inside the can.

Dave Zuckerman, an organic farmer in Hinesburg, Vermont, is quite familiar with BPA: he recently found out he’s chock-full of it. In 2009, he participated in a study co-sponsored by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Vermont, a nonprofit committed to protecting Vermonters from toxic chemicals, and the River Network, a group of grassroots organizations dedicated to river protection. “I’m no saint when it comes to how I treat my body, but I do live an active life and eat well,” Zuckerman says. So he wasn’t expecting to learn that his blood level of BPA was six to eight times the national average of 1 nanogram per liter.

Zuckerman rarely eats canned food, but he blames plastic reusable bottles: he’d refill his 32-ounce bottles two to three times during his long days out in the field. While most water bottles sold today are made from BPA-free plastics, this wasn’t the case a few years ago when hard clear polycarbonate plastics often contained BPA. He has since switched to BPA-free metal bottles (and, again, many companies have transitioned to making bottles with BPA-free plastics and labeling them as such). Although he hasn’t been rechecked for BPA—his initial test was part of a study—he feels pretty confident that his levels have gone down. Nevertheless, “with so many environmental toxins it is hard to pinpoint where they are coming from,” he says.

Next: More on the Effects of BPA (bisphenol A) »

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