After years of claiming it’s not a risk, the EPA has announced that it will formally list Bisphenol A (BPA) as a “chemical of concern”. Considering all the studies showing how this hormone disruptor can affect our bodies, this is great news – but don’t expect big changes anytime soon. As we wait for manufacturers to perform tests on the chemical’s impact, it’s up to us to avoid BPA as much as we can.
Cutting BPA out altogether is easier said than done if you want to use any modern products whatsoever, but you can significantly lower your exposure – as long as you know exactly where this chemical is lurking. We’ve heard a lot about BPA in some reusable bottles, but some of the sources are surprisingly sneaky. Here are 17 common products that contain BPA and how to avoid them.
1. Dental Sealants – If you want to protect those pearly whites with some dental bonding or sealants, beware the specter of BPA. A study found that this chemical can leach into saliva following certain dental procedures. But don’t panic – BPA-free alternatives are available; just ask your dentist.
2. Receipts – You know how most modern receipts have a really smooth texture? That slick coating usually contains (you guessed it) BPA. And it’s no trivial nanogram quantity – we’re talking sizeable amounts that can pass into your skin or consumed when you eat. Studies on exactly how much ends up in the body are forthcoming, but at least this one is easy to avoid: just say no to receipts. You’ll save paper and prevent waste, too.
3. Baby Bottles – Babies are particularly susceptible to harmful effects from BPA, so many parents find the fact that it’s present in some bottles worrisome to say the least. Luckily, however, BPA-free bottles are now widely available and the top six baby bottle makers in the U.S. have agreed to stop using the chemical.
4. Children’s Toys – Nom nom nom! Gotta love all that BPA (not to mention lead and other toxins) that children end up chomping on when they’re innocently playing with their toys. But thanks to all those protective parents out there, the internet is rife with recommendations for BPA-free brands. Check out the Consumer Reports Toy Buying Guide for safe options.
5. Canned Food Liners – Soups, juices, beans and tomatoes. All of these goods and more are often tainted with BPA when canned, all because of a protective plastic lining. The Environmental Working Group performed tests on a wide range of goods and found the highest concentrations in infant formula, chicken soup and ravioli. But not all brands use BPA – get a list at Treehugger.
6. Canning Jar Lids – Alas, even when you preserve your own foods, BPA is there to rain on your parade. Canning jar lids have a lining similar to that in tin cans, but there’s usually minimal contact with food. If you want to be extra-careful, seek out glass-lidded canning jars like those made by Weck.
7. Plastic food containers – They may be convenient, making it easy to store, transport and reheat food, but plastic food containers are one of the biggest sources of BPA. The easiest and most important step you can take is to stop microwaving food in plastic containers. BPA-free stainless steel and glass options are readily available and last longer anyway.
8. Medical Devices – Could plastic components be leaching BPA into patients’ bodies during heart bypass surgeries and hemodialysis? The FDA haslaunched a pair of studies to find out. It’s a concern due to the length of time that patients can be exposed to the chemical, but it only affects a small portion of the population so chances are, you don’t have to worry about this one.
9. Pizza Boxes – If you haven’t groaned in frustration already, do it now and get it out of your system. Yes, even certain recycled pizza boxes are said to contain BPA. Since pizza boxes can’t usually be recycled anyway, why not make this easy on yourselves and either make pizza at home or eat in instead of getting delivery. Score an easy and extremely delicious New York-style pizza crust recipe (my personal favorite) from Recipezaar.com.
10. Toilet Paper – Remember those pesky receipts? It turns out, they’re often recycled into toilet paper, BPA and all. But this problem is bigger than the amount that gets transferred to your private bits in the bathroom. Once toilet paper is flushed and processed at waste plants, much of that BPA ends up in surface water and groundwater. Does this mean we should ditch recycled toilet paper and use that virgin tree stuff instead? Not necessarily, but it is a tough call.
11. Water Coolers – The large hard plastic bottles used in water coolers are yet another source of BPA. A better (and less wasteful) option is to simply outfit your kitchen faucet with a filter from Brita or PUR, which are BPA-free.
12. Soda Cans – If you’re one of those people with a Diet Coke can permanently glued to your hand, listen up. Bizarre chemical ingredients and artificial sweeteners aren’t the only enemy in that caustic stuff – BPA is found in almost all brands of canned soft drinks. Cut back on your soda intake, and you’ll be better off in more ways than one.
13. Beer and Wine – While there’s no good way to avoid the BPA that is sometimes found in the epoxy lining of wine vats short of giving up wine altogether (crazy talk!), you can skip the BPA-flavored beer by simply choosing bottles over cans. BPA is a bigger risk in canned beer than in soda, because it’s highly soluble in alcohol.
14. Eyewear – If you wear sunglasses or eyeglasses with plastic lenses, you’re probably in constant contact with BPA all day long. It’s tough to tell how much of an impact this could have on health, but if you want to be safe, metal frames are a good bet.
15. CDs and DVDs – It’s probably safe to say that you don’t often lick your CDs or DVDs, and we handle them so briefly, the BPA contained within these items isn’t a threat to most people.
16. Blenders and Food Processors – Since these items are in direct contact with our food, it’s good to know which brands contain BPA and which don’t. Consumer research website Z Recommends has a handy guide, with the Beaba Babycook, the Vita-Mix 5200 blender and Hamilton Beach’s Big Mouth food processors all coming out winners in the “safe” category.
17. Car Parts – These days, car interiors are almost entirely made from hard plastics, so it’s not too surprising to learn that BPA lurks in the steering wheel, gear shift, dashboard and more. Good luck finding a plastic-free vehicle – but hey, it’s another good excuse to walk more often.
Images: stevendepolo, conor lawless, rolandslakis, fernashes