I've had this thought looming in my mind for some time and as I went school shopping with my 3 children, I couldn't help once again seeing the words BPA FREE stamped on various products throughout the stores. Many consumers may not pay attention to these little details, but when you specialize in hormone replacement therapy and see the impact of our environment on patients, it means a great deal more. Today I wanted to cover that little tidbit of information that you see on various plastics in our stores these days, BPA FREE.
What's the big deal? Well, it actually is a big deal and I hope you learn something today.
BPA. What is it?
BPA is an acronym for Bisphenol A. It's essentially a synthetic hormone (estrogen) structurally and functionally related to Diethylstilbesterol (DES). Now I probably should back up and explain that chemical a little too. DES was banned in 1971 for use in pregnant women using it (3 decades of use. gasp!!) to prevent miscarriage because it was found to increase cancer risk at least 40x more than the general population. Sadly, it was striking young women and they were termed "DES daughters". At birth, DES daughters commonly had defective reproductive organs. As women, these "daughters" faced a 2 in 3 chance of failing to produce a live baby with each pregnancy.
DES was also added to animal feed to promote growth in chickens, sheep, and beef cattle. DES use in meat production continued until 1979. Today, sadly, they just use different hormones in production. (I'll save that for another blog) There are many farmers who are producing hormone free products and their businesses are booming.
Now back to BPA.
BPA was first considered for use as an estrogenic human drug, but DES took the forefront instead. However, in the 1950's it was found that BPA could be used to create epoxy and plastic resins. In the U.S., BPA use amounts to 2 billion pounds per year, much of it in clear plastic bottles, food containers, BABY BOTTLES (gasp again!!), and metal and INFANT FORMULA cans (bad bad bad). Today nearly 93 percent of Americans carry detectable amounts of BPA in their urine (Centers for Disease Control). Why might that be? Over 6 billion pounds of BPA is produced and over 100 tons released into the atmosphere worldwide annually. (yes, that's every year) Does that make you want to hold your breath or what?!?!
Canada has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. Minnesota and Connecticut have also joined Canda in banning BPA from some baby products.
What about problems with general health and hormones? (I'm glad you asked)
BPA binds to Thyroid and Estrogen receptors and inhibits their normal effect causing thyroid and hormone disruptions. Xenoestrogens are tricky to the endocrine system, and cause the body's normal production to be out of whack with the external influence of these chemicals. It's a medical fact and cited in numerous books and articles from experts throughout the U.S.
Just for fun, walk through your house and look at all the plastics. Structurally similar molecules to BPA are found in many things: toothpaste, mouthwash, soaps, deodorants, shaving creams, cleaning supplies, kitchen utensils, trash bags, clothing, bedding, and childrens toys.
What can you do to help yourself and your family? Well, here's a few little things to get you going.
Minimize plastic exposure by using glass, ceramic, and stainless steel containers. Avoid microwaving in plastic containers. Read labels and look for potentially harmful chemicals. Buy "certified organic" or "hormone free" as much as possible. Its' very sad to me that you have to pay so much more for these safer alternatives. I think the government should invest in those farmers who are producing truly "organic" products. (my two cents)
I would love to hear your comments or personal insight on this topic. It's a very broad subject, to say the least, and I'm always in tune to the term "environmentally friendly" these days . That term is "all fine and good", but what about the impact on patients health, disease risk, and hormone imblance to produce mass quanities of something that is supposed to be considered safe.....and convenient. Some things we just cannot afford to wait 30 years to find out that it's wrong. And especially when it affects the health of people.
To your good health,