What is BPA-Free?
Posted by Jorge on 12/27/2013
Since the late 1950s, Bisphenol A has been used to manufacture consumer goods around the world. BPA, as it is commonly known, is a chemical used to make certain kinds of hard polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It can be found in hundreds of popular household products, including everything from plastic storage containers to canned-food liners to sports bottles.
Over the last 15 years, a number of scientific studies have raised red flags about the possible negative effects of BPA on public health. As a result, a growing number of consumers have been searching for alternative products that are produced without BPAs, and more companies are manufacturing goods that are BPA-free.
What is BPA?
A Russian chemist, Aleksandr Dianin, was the first person to synthesize BPA in 1891. In the 1930s, the chemical compound was tested as an artificial estrogen, but it was found to be less effective than other products used for that purpose. It was not until the 1950s that manufacturers began using BPA to produce strong polycarbonate plastics and sturdy epoxy resins.
Today, BPA is used widely in homes and in the workplace. Over the years, polycarbonate plastics containing BPA have been used in some microwave food containers, plastic baby bottles, sporting equipment, plastic toys, eyeglasses, compact discs and DVDs. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used in bottle tops and the lining of food and drink cans. BPA also is found in some building materials, medical supplies, airplane and auto parts, water supply pipes, safety equipment and thermal paper for sales receipts.
Scientific studies on BPA safety have produced varying results. BPA, which can mimic estrogen, has been linked to negative health effects in animal studies. Some studies have suggested that young children and unborn babies may be more susceptible to harmful neurological or physical effects than others. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contends that BPA is safe as currently used in food packaging and that people exposed to low doses do not need to be concerned.
Where can I find BPA-free products?
About eight billion pounds of BPA are used annually by manufacturers, so it can be difficult to avoid contact with it. Because of the demands of the marketplace, many companies have begun to offer BPA-free product lines for customers concerned about potential health effects.
Consumers can now look for identifying labels on BPA-free water bottles, food storage containers, plastic wrap, storage bags and filtered water pitchers. Some canned food brands have stopped using BPA in the liners of their cans. In 2012, the FDA ruled that BPA could no longer be used in infant products such as baby bottles and sippy cups.
Not all labels identify whether a product is BPA-free. While polycarbonates contain BPA, many plastic products are made from materials that do not contain BPA. Pliable plastic items are likely to be BPA-free, but hard, unbreakable plastics are more likely to contain BPAs. While some people suggest that recycling codes identify products containing BPA, this is not always the case. When in doubt, check with the product manufacturer.
Health advocates say that BPA is more likely to leach out of containers and into food over time when the products are subject to high temperatures. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences recommends that the public avoid putting polycarbonate plastics in the dishwasher or microwave to avoid problems. Products made from glass, stainless steel and porcelain are BPA-free, so they can be a good alternative for health-conscious cooks.