BPA Explained

By Cameron Jenkins

If you’re in the market for a new water bottle, you will find that there is a grand selection at many sports stores and supermarkets. There are ample options with some labeled “BPA” free. You know that BPA is possibly bad…but honestly, what really is it? Why is it recommended to stay away from it?

BPA stands for bisphenol A., and it is an industrial chemical that was originally formulated by chemists in the late 1880s, but plastics weren’t as widely used then. It wasn’t a very relevant product until the 1950s when the plastic industry skyrocketed. With new technology, plastics introduced many new materials that we incorporate into our lives every day. What makes BPA so special is its ability to deform without breaking or cracking, meaning the product can bend without snapping in half. This durability can be a big advantage in packaging and product formation. Just look around you– a calculator, mechanical pencil, and chair is mostly made of plastic.

BPA can be found in polycarbonate plastics such as containers that store foods and drinks. In terms of resins, epoxy resins that coat metal products like food cans, bottle tops, and water supply lines may contain BPA. But really, it is everywhere: medical devices, compact discs, dental sealants, and more.

So, why does this “revolutionary” durable plastic have a bad reputation?

More than 90% of us have BPA in our bodies right now. We mostly get it from eating foods that were contained in BPA products, but we can also pick it up through inhaling dust in the air or drinking water with it seeped in.

The risks, though, are not exactly black and white. Technically there are not definitive studies of the effects in humans, so we don’t really know. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) used to say that it was safe, but in 2010 the position was altered to a more unfavorable view. The FDA states that BPA is safe at the “current low levels of human exposure. But based on other evidence — largely from animal studies– the FDA expressed “some concern” about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands in fetuses, infants, and young children” (source). Some areas of concern include links to cancer with exposure, heart problems, and disrupted hormone levels. Studies are continuing to happen with interesting and varied results. If you Google “BPA and …” lots of links will pop up with information galore on possible links to diseases and health risks. There are also other studies that claim BPA to have no risk.

In regards to the environment, it is known that plastics are almost never a good thing. Through my own research on this topic, I actually saw good, but varying results. One website stated that BPA is biodegradable in wastewater treatment, and that any left over BPA that enters into the environment will quickly decompose and not build up. Another explained a study that claimed to not have any detectable BPA in its waters, and there was no environmental impact.

Maybe BPA isn’t the problem in the environment, but plastics in general definitely are. Plastic pollution, other chemicals seeping into the waterways, and animal defects — the list goes on.

So in the end, is BPA really that bad? You will find mixed reviews. I personally try to dissociate myself from potentially harmful chemicals. If I have the option to pick something more natural and not synthetically made, I will pick the natural without a doubt. There are a lot of products that advertise that they are “BPA free” in order to get the consumer to choose it over the nonlabeled product. Is it a marketing tool or is it something very important?

I believe the studies that suggest BPA has toxic risks, and because of that I steer clear. I never microwave products that are in a plastic container, and I will always choose glass over plastic.

To choose the BPA free water bottle or to not? The choice is yours.



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