Why Going BPA-Free Might Not Be As Great As You Think

Aastha Singh, Writer

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This week, I took to the halls of Obama, bugging students and teachers alike to get their thoughts on BPAs. They were asked about what kind of plastic product they would most likely buy and were given three options: BPA-containing products, BPA-free products, and unsure. The results are in the chart displayed above.

A great number of those polled claimed that they would buy plastic products that were BPA free, while the rest were unsure. However, BPA free products may not be as great as the general public believes.

But let’s back up. What is BPA?

BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a chemical compound used to synthesize various hard and transparent plastics, namely polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin coatings. It is used in a variety of plastic containers and coatings and a firming agent, like baby bottles, dental sealants, safety equipment, glasses, compact disks (DVDs and CDs), food cans, electronics, water bottles, water pipes, and medical equipment.

BPAs are ingested directly, usually though the mouth or nose, through food stored in plastic containers or metal cans, liquids from plastic bottles, plastic dental protectants, or air that has had prolonged exposure to BPA-containing items.

BPAs were banned by the United States Food and Drug Administration for use in baby bottles in 2012. But why?

Studies have found that BPAs disrupt the endocrine system, which is in charge of secreting hormones in the body. It upsets the cycle of creating, releasing, and eliminating hormones by imitating estrogen and other bodily hormones. The outcomes of an unnatural endocrine system can be seriously detrimental.

Studies have shown that BPAs interfere with the natural functions of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which can affect reproductive processes like puberty and ovulation, potentially leading to infertility.

It can also affect fetal development in the womb. Infants can develop social and behavioral problems due to structural abnormalities in their brain. Females can develop immature eggs and breast cancer. Males can develop erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer.

BPAs also cause problems in the cardiovascular system, which is in charge of using blood to transport materials, like blood and hormones, throughout the body. Even the most minor exposure to BPAs can cause problems like buildup in arteries and veins (coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease), chest pain or pressure (angina), high blood pressure (hypertension), or even heart attacks.

There has even been research done that concluded that BPAs increase resistance to insulin, causing diabetes, and alter natural metabolic functions, causing obesity.

Sounds bad, right? However, the alternative may be worse.

In this case, the alternative is a chemical called BPS, standing for Bisphenol S. It is the most common BPA substitute in plastic bottles or containers labeled as BPA-free. They were not tested extensively to find out the risks before being manufactured and released, so not much information on them is known.

Some studies done by researchers at the University of Texas have shown that the effects of BPSs on the human body are equally as, if not more, harmful as the effects of BPAs on the human body. They both have the potential to cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and defects in fetal development. In addition to this, BPSs have been shown to cause hyperactivity and sporadic and rapid heartbeat.

So what do we do now, knowing that both BPA-containing and BPA-free products are harmful?

The solution is simple: use different materials. Not only will it be better for you as the user, it will also be better for the environment. There are a variety of ways to do this:

  • Keep foods and drinks in glass, ceramic, or metal containers whenever possible
  • Don’t buy canned food, buy either fresh or frozen
  • Don’t heat things up in plastic containers
  • Don’t wash plastic and non-plastic items in the same vessel at the same time
  • Opt for wooden toys instead of plastic ones

 

What this article boils down to is this: both types of plastics are harmful. Let’s stop using them and switch away now.

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