What Is BPA and Why Should I Care?
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The industrial chemical found in some plastics has shown to be extremely hazardous to our health.
Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA, is an industrial chemical used in plastic production, and is hotly debated for being a potential health hazard. BPA is found most commonly in food and drink packaging, water and infant bottles, and even as a coating for canned foods. We’ve all seen these types of products touting “BPA-Free” labels, but does it actually matter whether we buy them or not?
Why is there cause for concern over BPA exposure?
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While the toxicity of BPA is still under debate, several studies make convincing arguments for avoiding this chemical at all cost. One study found a link between BPA and hormone disruption, discovering exposure of this chemical can lead to endocrine disorders such as PCOS, infertility, and even breast and prostate cancer. Another study found that BPA also disrupts the metabolism and can lead to obesity, diabetes, and even cardiovascular disease.
How can BPA find its way into the body?
According to the NIEHS, diet is the number one source of BPA exposure in humans. The chemical first enters the food or beverage it’s contained in, either by heat or leaching into the product. Our food and drinks then transport the BPA into our bodies as we digest, and from there can begin to wreak havoc on our hormones and metabolism.
One study conducted by the CDC found 93 percent of the 2517 people tested had detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. The chemical has also shown to have secondhand effects on the fetus when pregnant, and even after birth, as BPA levels have been detected in breast milk.
How to prevent BPA exposure
The first is to opt for fresh or frozen over packaged foods when possible. One study Silent Spring conducted with the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners showed reducing packaged food intake also reduced BPA levels by 60 percent. However, as soon as packaged food consumption increased, BPA levels followed suit.
Another suggestion is to eat at home when possible, as people who dine out more frequently have shown to possess higher levels of BPA. They also advise storing the meals you make throughout the week in stainless steel or glass containers instead of plastic to avoid leaching and exposure after reheating. Finally, Silent Spring researchers advise using a french press over an automatic coffee maker to reduce exposure, due to many electric coffee makers containing BPA-lined containers and tubing.
Interested in learning more about sustainability?
If you currently own plastic food and beverage containers and aren’t sure about replacing them, here’s how to decide whether or not it’s worth it. The NIH suggests looking at the recycle codes on the bottom of your plastic containers. If the number 3 or 7 is listed, then it’s likely made with BPA.
In addition, the NIH advises avoiding reheating any type of food in a plastic container—yes, even if it says it’s microwave-safe—as they can break down over time and contaminate food. Even if you’re not purposefully heating plastic containers or water bottles, leaving them in the sun can also lead to BPA exposure (make sure to keep these products in a cool, shaded place when possible.)
What about BPA-free products?
While you should certainly opt for plastics labeled “BPA-free” over those containing the chemical, many studies out there are showing even the “safer” plastics aren’t really safe at all. One study, funded by the NIH, found almost all of the commercially available plastic products they sampled, even those made without BPA, produced detectable levels of potentially disruptive estrogen activity. The researchers noted, in some instances, the BPA-free products actually released more harmful chemicals.
The bottom line: While there are two sides to this debate, there’s more evidence surrounding the negative health implications BPA can produce, and the cons seem to outweigh the pros. Simply making an effort to reduce plastic use, and reheating foods on the stove or on porcelain dishware in the microwave, can make a huge difference.
Don't Touch That Cash Register Receipt—It's Toxic
If there’s one thing you probably touch every day, over and over again, it’s cash register receipts. Quick—check your wallet, your pocket, or the bottom of your purse: There they are.
Now researchers have found that those innocent-seeming pieces of paper contain high levels of bisphenol A, the same chemical recently banned from plastic water bottles because of the serious long-term health risks it poses.
According to a study published this week in the journal PLOS ONE, people's blood levels of BPA spiked after they touched cash receipts—particularly if they had lotion, sanitizer, or another skin care product on their hands.
“BPA has been proven to cause reproductive defects in fetuses, infants, children, and adults as well as cancer, metabolic, and immune problems in rodents,” said study author Frederick vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri.
”Our research found BPA levels from receipts much higher than exposures from food packaging or plastic,” added vom Saal. “And BPA from thermal papers will be absorbed into your blood rapidly. At those levels, many diseases such as diabetes and disorders such as obesity increase as well.”
A report issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in January found that 94 percent of receipts contain BPA.
A hormone disruptor that mimics and interferes with estrogen and testosterone, BPA is used as a heat-activated ink developer in the production of thermal receipts, such as those dispensed from cash registers, gas pumps, and ATMs. The process is even used to print airline tickets. Because the BPA sits on the surface of slick, plastic-coated paper, it absorbs easily into the skin, the study found.
Our devotion to lotion isn’t helping. Sunscreen, hand sanitizers, and other personal care products contain chemicals that help pierce the skin ("dermal penetration enhancers," to use industry-speak). Think about how often you use hand products and how often you touch food immediately after touching a receipt, and it's easy to see how they provide BPA a direct route into the body.
Paper Waste Is Being Turned Into a Safer BPA Alternative
Consider these scenarios, all of which were observed by the researchers in a study conducted in restaurants and food courts in a Columbia, Missouri, shopping mall. In one, you pay for your food and receive a receipt, which you touch before taking your food. In a second scenario, common in many fast-food restaurants, there is a dispenser of hand sanitizer on the counter, which you use before taking the receipt and your food. In a third scenario, common in take-out restaurants, the receipt is stapled to the folded top of the bag, right where your hand rests as you carry it.
All three scenarios provide a direct route for BPA into your fingertips.
Sure enough, when the researchers tested blood levels of BPA after study participants cleaned their hands with sanitizer, then held receipts, they found an immediate spike in BPA levels. Add the third step of eating greasy food (in this case, french fries), and BPA levels soared.
It’s not the first study to find large amounts of BPA in thermal receipts a 2010 study published in Green Chemistry Letters and Reviews found high levels of BPA in the surface coating of thermal paper. But vom Saal and his team were the first to go a significant step further, taking blood samples and measuring BPA blood levels after research subjects had touched receipt paper.
So how do we avoid touching BPA-tainted receipts?
There's no simple solution, vom Saal said. "Virtually all store receipts, ATM receipts, etc., are thermal paper, and no safe chemical-free alternative exists, making it difficult for manufacturers to reformulate the ink used in receipts."
Sure enough, the EPA study on BPA in receipts concluded that no safer alternative to the chemical exists.
How to Avoid BPA Exposure from Cash Register Receipts
It seems there's no escaping Bisphenol-A (BPA). Another study, published in Green Chemistry Letters and Reviews earlier this summer, and an Environmental Working Group (EWG) research report have shown that measurable levels of BPA are still being found on thermal paper receipts used for cash registers and credit card/debit machines.
In the study authored by John C. Warner, eight of 10 cash register receipts collected from suburban Boston-area stores had measurable levels of BPA, and the EWG report found 14 of 36 receipts collected from fast-food restaurants, retailers, grocery stores, gas stations, and post offices tested positive for BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical used in plastics.
Most research into the effects of BPA in humans (and animals) have focused on dietary exposure, such as via liquids in plastic drinking bottles or foods that are packaged in cans lined with plastics containing BPA. We simply don't know what effect BPA has when exposure is via the skin. But think about all the times you touch your lips in a day. Or the times you've grabbed a receipt in your mouth as you load the kids into the car. It's easy to see how easily the BPA on receipts can be transferred to our mouths.
There's no way to tell if a thermal paper receipt contains BPA or not, so unless governments ban BPA from receipts, it's up to consumers to limit exposure whenever possible. And though it may seem like a futile effort, a few simple steps can help you limit your interaction with the chemical.
First and foremost, if you don't need a receipt, leave it -- and ask the cashier not to print it if possible. For many small purchases and unless you're purchasing something you may want to take back, a receipt is unnecessary. As an added bonus, you'll be reducing paper waste.
If you need the receipt, ask the cashier to place it in the bag. When you get home, remove receipts from all bags, place them in a drawer or space on your desk just for the receipts, and avoid further unnecessary contact. Be sure to wash your hands well after handling receipts.
Do not place receipts in bags with food items, especially items you eat raw. If you have to, place the receipt in your wallet or checkbook, or in a business card holder or coin purse dedicated for receipts.
If you keep all receipts for balancing your checkbook, store them in one place and always wash your hands well after you have balanced the books.
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BPA has been used for food packaging since the 1960s, but it wasn&rsquot until more recent decades that concerns about its health effects became mainstream. And, due to much of our existing research having important limitations (such as using unrealistic methods of BPA exposure in lab animal studies, problems translating the results of rodent experiments to humans, difficulties in quantifying human exposure, and mixed results from the studies themselves), the impact of BPA on human health is still controversial!
So, what&rsquos actually wrong with BPA? The main concern is its ability to act as an endocrine disruptor, mimicking estrogen and interfering with hormonal signaling in the body. In rodents, relatively low levels of BPA have been shown to decrease sperm production, negatively impact the mammary gland, alter vaginal morphology, increase the size of the prostate gland, change the patterning of female estrous cycles, decrease fetal birth weight, negatively impact brain development and behavior (in the offspring of rodents exposed to BPA during pregnancy), and alter the rate of growth and puberty&hellip among other things!
And it doesn&rsquot end there! Along with affecting fertility and sexual development, BPA appears to be diabetogenic, potentially raising the risk of diabetes by directly acting on pancreatic cells, impairing the secretion of insulin and glucagon, and triggering insulin resistance in liver cells, fat cells, and muscle cells. In rodents, chronic exposure to BPA can induce heart disease by causing cardiac remodeling, atherosclerosis, and changes in blood pressure. And, we have both experimental (in animals) and observational (in humans) evidence that BPA is associated with different cancers, liver damage, asthma, fatty liver, and behavioral issues (including ADD). Yikes!
Is USA PAN cookware compatible on an induction stove?
Yes. USA PAN cookware can be used on all stove types including induction. USA PAN® cookware can also be used on cooking surfaces such as gas, electric, ceramic glass, and halogen.
How do I wash my USA PAN Cookware?
Before using USA PAN cookware for the first time, wash each piece thoroughly in mixture of hot soapy water and one-half cup vinegar. This will help to ensure that all manufacturing oils are removed. After initial use, wash as you normally would whether in a dishwasher or in hot soapy water.
How do I remove burned food from my USA PAN Cookware?
If you have food burnt in your pan, fill the pan with water (hot water for a hot pan and cold water for a cold pan). Soak until the burned areas easily lift off. If this doesn’t work, fill the pan with water, bring to a boil, and use a wooden spoon to remove the burned particles. For any remaining stains, remove with a non-abrasive stainless steel cleaner.
How can I remove a stain or discoloration after cooking?
First, wet the pan and remove excess water. Sprinkle with a good abrasive stainless steel cleaner. Then, using a paper towel or cloth, rub the cleaner over the stained area, rinse, and dry.
How do I maintain the shape of my USA PAN Cookware?
To resist warping, do not put cold water into a hot pan. Heat the pan gradually. Do not place an empty pan on high heat.
What is Vapor Seal Cooking?
USA PAN Cookware features a unique vapor seal that allows you to cook without water or grease. A vapor seal is created around the cover and heat is distributed evenly across the bottom and sides of the cookware. This process is nutritionally advantageous: it allows you to cook your food in its natural liquid for a healthier, flavor-filled meal. No need to add any moisture or fats.
How do I use the Waterless Cooking feature?
Use a pan that the food almost fills (Cooking with a pan too large for the food quantity can destroy vitamins and minerals, dry out foods, and possibly cause your food to burn). For fresh or frozen vegetables, rinse in cold water, drain most of the water and pour in your pan. For dried foods, such as rice, pasta, or dried beans, add some water. Cover the pan, place on a burner, and turn to medium heat. The vapor seal has formed when the lid is hot to the touch or vapor escapes around the lid and can be spun freely. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking until done. Resist the urge to peek: if the cover is removed during cooking, heat and moisture escapes and the vapor seal breaks. This lengthens cooking time. Follow time charts, recipes and general instructions for meats, vegetables, etc.
How do I use the Greaseless Cooking feature?
You may prepare your foods WITHOUT added oils and fats. Remember, you are cooking on a stainless steel surface. To prepare steaks, preheat the pan on medium to medium-high heat until water droplets "dance" when sprinkled on the pan. Place steaks in the pan. Take care in placing your steaks as they will immediately begin to sear, temporarily sticking to the surface. You should not move them until they are ready to turn. After 4-5 minutes try to lift a corner of your steak, but do not force it as the meat releases itself. When that side is seared, turn and cook to your steak preference.
To sauté onions and garlic, simply use medium-low heat and cover the pan — they sauté in their own moisture. no oil is needed. If olive oil is added, it's added for the flavor so often less is used. Most meats, chicken, chops, and fish have natural fats and oils, so you do not need to add them. Eggs have no natural oil — you need to spray the pan with vegetable cooking spray or use a small amount of butter or margarine.
Waterless-greaseless cooking is a low-temperature method that can be used on any type of stove. Lower heat retains moisture and keeps food from burning. The following are general rules for heat use.
Should I Worry About BPA?
Some of the scariest news we&rsquove seen recently: Prenatal exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical found in some plastics and cans, may affect the way cells function during brain and central nervous system development , according to a study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To mimic the effects of prenatal BPA exposure, researchers examined male and female mouse and human nerve cells and exposed them to the chemical. They found that BPA slowed the cells&rsquo regulation of chloride levels&mdashespecially among female neurons, which appear to be more susceptible to the chemical.
These new findings join hundreds of studies that suggest BPA can seriously affect cells and systems in the body.
Other recent study results show intra-uterus exposure to BPA can predispose children to behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and social issues, resulting in autism or even a more severe version known as Rett Syndrome. BPA has also been linked to an increased risk of obesity, cancer, and recently, asthma.
&ldquoBPA isn&rsquot lethal, but evidence of its harm is strong,&rdquo says Wolfgang Liedtke, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine/neurology and neurobiology at Duke University and lead author of the PNAS study. Researchers still don&rsquot know whether low amounts are just as harmful as high amounts, he says. It may be the case that BPA is like a light switch that turns off your genes&mdashso more of it wouldn&rsquot necessarily &ldquoturn off&rdquo more lights or do more damage.
It&rsquos nearly impossible to keep your life a 100 percent BPA-free zone: The Food and Drug Administration permits BPA in food and beverage packaging without warning, and the chemical can be found in air, dust, water, medical devices, dental sealants, CDs, and more, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
You can, however, limit your exposure to BPA by shopping at a farmers market when possible, avoiding plastic containers, ditching canned food, and getting electronic copies of receipts (the paper ones have a BPA-based coasting).
The verdict: BPA does appear to have some scary side effects, but you could drive yourself crazy trying to prevent any sort of contact with the chemical. Do what you can to minimize your exposure&mdashespecially if you&rsquore pregnant&mdashbut there&rsquos no need to go overboard trying to avoid it altogether.
Additional reporting by Emily Main for Rodale.com
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Where Is BPA Found?
BPA is a commonly-used chemical in everyday products in fact, over 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced each year! BPA is so ubiquitous that it’s been found in the bodies of 93% of Americans tested.
Common products containing BPA include:
- Plastic products like children’s sippy cups, water bottles, food storage containers, and even children’s toys.
- Canned foods, where it’s often used in the linings and leaches into the food inside and then into our bodies.
- Thermal paper receipts from cash registers. And because it rubs off of thermal paper so easily and receipts are often kept in wallets next to dollar bills, BPA is also found on paper money.
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What does BPA free mean?
Gasoline used to contain lead. People realized that vaporizing lead and breathing it in was a bad idea. The petroleum industry fought against it but eventually, unleaded gasoline became the standard.
It’s good that gasoline (or petrol or bensin or whatever you call it) no longer contains lead. It’s still pretty bad though. BPA-free plastic is the same.
What exactly is BPA?
. and why should I be glad it’s no longer used in (food) plastics?
BPA (Bisbisphenol A) is an industrial chemical and 95% of it is used for two purposes: to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Those plastics are everywhere, from safety goggles to composite airplane wings. In certain applications, it excels. But, and this is a big one, when used in food and beverage containers researchers found that small amounts leached into food.
Why is it bad if BPA ends up in food?
BPA is an endocrine disruptor. The endocrine system “is the collection of glands that produce hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.” BPA mimics certain hormones that the endocrine system uses for those important tasks.
Let’s say you are building a house but you have to use the wood someone hands you wherever you happen to be at that moment. If you are getting the wood from a reliable source things will be OK. What if someone hands you a rotten 2x4 or one infested with termites? You could get lucky and not have to use it for a load-bearing wall or part of a roof truss. Maybe things will hold together and maybe they won’t. But it certainly calls into question the long term viability of that house and whether or not you'll be making certain repairs in the future.
What if we replace "house" and "wood" with "body" and "hormones?" Adults aren’t as affected by endocrine disruptors as children. But even small doses are especially problematic for kids because their physical and brain development is incomplete. They are still laying the foundation of their bodies that they'll be using for the rest of their lives.
A study of over 2,000 people found that more than 90 percent had BPA in their urine. Traces had also been found in breast milk, the blood of pregnant women and umbilical cord blood. This explains why in 2012, after intense lobbying on both sides, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. Eventually, the industry moved toward removing BPA from many of the plastics that are typically found near food. Not all though. BPA can still be found in many items, such as canned food, water bottles, and receipt paper.
The good news is that after consumers were informed about the dangers of BPA public outcry lead to the reduction of its use in most cans - 90% no longer contain the chemical. That doesn’t mean things are all of a sudden perfect. According to Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, BPA may simply have been swapped for BPS, or bisphenol-S, a similar chemical thought to be even more harmful to children’s health. Replacing one harmful chemical with a different one that is just as bad (or worse) than the original is called regrettable substitution.
“Innocent until proven guilty may be the right starting point for criminal justice, but it is disastrous chemical policy,” Allen wrote. “We need to recognize regrettable substitution for what it is: repeated substitution of toxic chemicals with equally toxic chemicals in a dangerous experiment to which none of us knowingly signed on.”*
Not Playing The Game
It’s good that cups and bottles and packaging are generally BPA-free. But remember, unleaded gasoline is still full of poisons and plastic will never be perfect. The less of it you have in your life, the better, but that is increasingly difficult if not impossible.
Our product does not contain BPA. We inspect the factory and had the owners sign our Code of Conduct so we could say with certainty that our bottles are safe for you and your family. From the inside liner to the outside paint, we insist that our bottles meet today's strictest safety standards because our future depends on it. We want you to use this bottle for years (if not decades) and by making sure it’s safe and durable, we know you’ll want to. It’s also fully insulated and will keep drinks piping hot for a day and ice-cold for twice that. It even looks good (for a bottle) and you can get it in a variety of colors,
Best of all, by using it you’ll NOT be using over 100 disposable plastic bottles a year. (That’s what the average person uses - one plastic bottle every few days). Single-use plastic sticks around for a long time. While bottles are no longer leaching BPA into your food, they are still leaching toxins into the environment. Here’s a live stream of a plastic bottle decomposing. It will be 450 years before it disappears. Even though new plastic may be safer, it can be just as bad as old plastic, and that old plastic is still laying around leaching toxins.
Our bottle is a start a way to help you remove single-use plastic from your life. It’s good for the planet and good for your family. It can be hard but we’ll be there to help.
How to best ensure safety
Parents who don't want to risk any chemicals possibly leaching into their child's drinks can use glass bottles and stainless steel sippy cups, although using glass bottles might not always be practical.
Another safety method is to avoid putting plastic bottles, sippy cups or food storage containers in the microwave or dishwasher or exposing them to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight. "Leaching of chemicals from plastics can also happen from repeat use and from scratches that accumulate over time," says Dr. Christian.
With some careful consideration of products you use and buy and special attention to how you use and care for your containers, you can reduce your family's exposure to BPA and EA chemicals.