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Avoid plastics to avoid BPA health hazards

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Risks of BPA In Plastics

The health world is abuzz about the potentially hazardous effects of Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA, the chemical used to create hard and super-clear plastic bottles, may also pose potential health hazards upon long-term exposure. Are you at risk of the dangers of BPA? Here is the rundown on BPA and steps to avoid over-exposure.

Baby Bottle
The National Toxicology Program, an office of the National Institutes of Health, recently expressed concerns about BPA in hard-plastic bottles, reporting that high doses have posed serious health problems in lab animals, drawing concern from health officials in the U.S. and Canada.

WHERE IS BPA?

Bits of the chemical compound BPA are most likely perched in your pantry right now. Found in reusable hard-plastic items like water and baby bottles as well as in the linings of canned goods (it helps prevent acidic veggies and fruit from eroding the container), approximately 2.8 million tons of BPA was produced globally in 2002, according to Chemical Market Associates.

Simply put, BPA is everywhere – including in your body. In a 2004 study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 95 percent of Americans have the chemical in their urine, thanks to trace amounts leeching from bottles into babies' milk or formula or your water or migrating from can liners to food.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF BPA?

While the plastics industry insists BPA is harmless, recent reports suggest it has an estrogen-mimicking effect that interferes with hormone levels and cell signaling systems. Long-term exposure may put you at risk for a gamut of health hazards including breast cancer and uterine fibroids, in women, and prostate cancer and decreased sperm counts in men. Even scarier? Infants and children could face behavioral problems such as hyperactivity or an early onset of puberty.

DO YOUR BOTTLES CONTAIN BPA?

To check to see if your bottles contain BPA, look for the letters PC (polycarbonate) and a number indicating the recycling code on the bottom of the bottle. BPA is usually identified by a triangle surrounding the number 7. If you see a 2 or 5, rest easy: Your bottles are made of high-density polyethylene or polypropylene, which is considered harmless.

If you do have number 7 bottles and want to continue to use them, avoid heating them or filling them with hot or warm items. Skip the dishwasher and hand-scrub them, instead. Like heat, harsh detergents can also cause the chemicals to leach into your food or drink.

GO BPA-FREE

If you don't even want to run the risk of being exposed to BPA, look for items made without the chemical. Brands like Thermos, SIGG, Born Free, and CamelBak now offer BPA-free containers, sippy cups, water bottles and baby bottles.

Another simple step? Save canned goods for emergencies only. Regularly opt for fresh or frozen foods or pick up cans from brands like Eden Foods, which boast BPA-free containers.

Chat about potentially-harmful chemicals in your bottles and cans on the SheKnows message boards.

For more information on BPA and its risks, check out these links:

Bisphenola Free

The Green Guide

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