Even though the health dangers associated with bisphenol A (BPA) have been known for more than 70 years, it wasn’t until recently that manufacturers began ditching the stuff due to rising public awareness. For consumers, among the chief concerns was BPA’s estrogen-mimicking effects which, in addition to throwing off the body’s natural hormone balance, was linked to a cavalcade of health problems, including reproductive issues, birth defects, breast cancer, heart and liver disease and neurological disorders. In the face of mounting evidence and consumer alarm over BPA exposure, plastics manufacturers managed to turn the crisis in consumer confidence into an opportunity. What did they do? They flooded the market with hundreds of BPA-free products – and voila! problem “solved” (for them, at least). With the arrival of all those new BPA-free, seemingly greener, safer products on the shelves, consumers who’d sworn off BPA-laced plastics could once again enjoy plastic’s convenience without fear of toxicity. It turns out though, it was a classic case of too good to be true. Unfortunately, it’s come to pass that many BPA-free alternatives are now testing out to be as dangerous as the BPA-originals, and in some cases may be even more damaging to your health. So much so that a number of experts studying BPA and their toxic cousins now advise cutting exposure by ditching plastic altogether, be it BPA-free or otherwise. So do I. Here’s why:
You’re Ingesting a Lot More BPA Than You Think
Because manufacturers are under no obligation to disclose the chemicals in the plastics they produce, most of us are unknowingly coming into contact with these endocrine-disrupting devils multiple times a day. They’re leaching BPA and other unknown chemicals into our bodies through our food containers, water bottles, PVC water pipes, canned foods and even receipt paper. Unless you’re making an extremely conscious effort, BPA is tough to avoid, and unfortunately, buying BPA-free products isn’t the answer either.
“BPA-free” Doesn’t Mean Healthy or Toxin-free
When consumer pressure all but forced the plastics industry to come up with BPA-free alternatives, consumers got ‘em alright, but what they got wasn’t free of dangerous chemicals, just BPA. Among the more popular replacements for BPA were other members of the bisphenol family, particularly bisphenol S (BPS) which has similar endocrine-disrupting effects. So the switcheroo from BPA to BPS and other chemical replacements didn’t result in a greener, healthier, or safer product – just a chemically different one, whose potential effects are even less known. According to GreenMedInfo.com BPS may actually be worse due to it’s relative inability to biodegrade as well as it’s potential to accumulate in the body for longer periods of time.
The Government’s Not Looking Out For You Either
Government does a lot of things well, but protecting consumers from chemical and toxic exposure isn’t one of them. What’s really frightening, is that laws regulating everyday chemicals are not only weak, they’re also really old. They’ve not kept up with the times. A case in point – the primary law that’s supposed to keep us safe, Toxic Substances Control Act, dates back to 1976! As it stands now, chemical companies aren’t obligated to prove their products are safe, so there’s little incentive to study their toxicity – or make pubic the results of their studies when and if they are conducted. With this laissez-faire business model, trusting chemical companies to care about your safety seems to me a bit like a game of wellness Russian roulette.
Be Well Solutions
So what’s the rational work-around in our plastic-wrapped world? Here are a few simple ideas to help limit exposure:
- Never, EVER, cook or microwave plastic containers, regardless of the manufacturer’s designation.
- When you get home from shopping, transfer foods into glass containers for storage.
- Taking a salad to the office for lunch? Use a mason jar instead of a plastic container.
- Going to the gym? Try a glass-lined bottle like the ones by Lifefactory or one made of stainless steel.
- Buy whole, unprocessed foods wrapped in as little packaging as possible!
- Collecting receipts for tax time? Use gloves when handling them or wash hands immediately afterwards.
How else to side step-some of the chemicals that can leech into your food and body? Here’s the Washington Post’s very wise list of items to avoid and their alternatives:
- hard plastic sports bottles
- plastic food storage containers
- food wrap
- hard and flexible packaging
- deli containers
- plastic bags
- baby bottle components (nipple, ring, liner, etc)
- plastic dinnerware and plates
- non-stick cookware
- plastic cleaning products
- thermal receipt paper
- canned food and drink
- tissue paper and toilet paper
- stainless steel water bottles
- ceramic plates and dishes
- unbleached wax paper
- anything made from wool, cotton, hemp or plastic-free, biodegradable fibers
- plastic-free cleaning products, such as baking soda, vinegar and essential oils
- stainless steel or cast iron cookware
- glass blender
- wire salad spinner
- stainless steel ice-cube tray
- natural rubber gloves
- recycled, individually-wrapped toilet paper
- bar soap
For more thoughts on how to kick plastic to the curb, read 15 Ways to Reduce Endocrine Disruptors in Your Kitchen