Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic estrogen chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics. It’s found in thousands of consumer products, from baby bottles to store receipts to canned goods.

BPA is so ubiquitous, exposure is impossible to avoid completely. Studies have shown that 93% of the American population has some level of BPA in their bodies. This is especially troublesome when one considers that the health effects associated with BPA are just now beginning to be understood.

As a synthetic estrogen, BPA can confuse the body’s natural endocrine systems, disrupting normal function and interfering with development. Some studies suggest exposure may lead to estrogenic cancers such as breast cancer. Endocrine disruption can also lead to childhood obesity and early onset puberty. Studies have also linked BPA to developmental and behavioral problems, diabetes and reproductive disorders.

The President’s Cancer Panel stated recently that the federal government has underestimated the role that environmental toxins may play in the development of cancer, and it singled out bisphenol A as one of the most serious exposures facing Americans. (Read the Executive Summary of the Report). The Breast Cancer Fund also recognizes the serious dangers of BPA and states, “BPA exposure may contribute to the epidemic of breast cancer now and in the future.”

Exposure to BPA is especially dangerous for pregnant women and infants. Ironically, plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and baby toys all commonly contain BPA. This has prompted several local and state governments to ban BPA in certain products made for children, but until more laws are in place to protect consumers, it is up to individuals to protect themselves and their families from BPA exposure.

There are many steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from BPA. Be sure to take the following precautions:

• Avoid plastics labeled with the #7 recycling code.
• Do not use baby bottles or sippy cups made from polycarbonate plastic. Glass or stainless steel are safer alternatives.
• Avoid canned goods. Instead, buy frozen foods or those packaged in cardboard containers.
• Choose soft drinks and beer in glass bottles instead of canned varieties.
• Avoid reusable beverage containers that contain BPA. Be sure to check the labels.
• Never microwave plastic. This may cause leaching.
• Be aware that some dental sealants and fillings contain BPA, so be sure to ask for alternatives.
• Check the labels of infant formula and other products to see if they contain BPA.

Web Resources

Chemicals in Plastic Bottles: How to Know What’s Safe for Your Family – Natural Resources Defense Council

Bisphenol A (BPA) and Breast Cancer – Breast Cancer Fund

Meet Bisphenol A – Safer Chemicals Healthy Families

Consumer Tips to Avoid BPA Exposure – Environmental Working Group