Pots, Pans, and Plastics: A Shopper's Guide to Food Safety
Plastics and the BPA Story continued...
"Over a dozen studies clearly show that BPA is not only leaching from
cans, but it reaches the food stored inside," says Vandenberg.
The BPA we ingest gets into our bloodstream. Regular monitoring by the CDC
shows that more than 90% of us have detectable levels of bisphenol A in our
Among all the other plastic substances that get into our food, BPA stands
out, according to Vandenberg, for its ability to disrupt the functions of
hormones -- especially estrogen.
Hundreds of studies show that high doses of BPA disrupt reproductive
development and function in laboratory animals. Levels in humans were thought
to be too low to be of concern, but more recent research has challenged that
perception, Vandenberg tells WebMD.
"Several animal studies suggest that BPA has effects at much lower doses
than previously believed," says Vandenberg. "The levels of BPA in
people frequently exceed the levels shown to have effects in rodents in these
studies," she adds.
Chemical industry sources are quick to point out that this "low-dose
hypothesis" has not yet been proven. They cite studies that have not
shown harm from BPA at low doses in rodents. However, a new study in a
prestigious journal also shows the low-dose BPA effect not just in rats but in
monkeys, whose systems are more like humans.
One large, well-conducted study in humans showed that people who had high
levels of BPA in the urine had a higher rate of diabetes, heart disease, and
Altogether, Vandenberg believes a "fragile consensus" exists among
scientists that BPA might be harmful. "Looking at the data we have, there
is no reason to conclude we are all safe from BPA's effects," she tells
The FDA recently repeated its previous statements that current BPA exposures
are safe. However, the National Institutes of Health's latest review voiced
"some concern" about BPA's effects.
If you want to reduce your exposure to BPA, there are some steps you can
- Eat less canned food, and more frozen or fresh food. In addition to
avoiding BPA, you'll also get more nutrients and less sodium -- both steps
toward a healthier diet.
- Breastfeed your baby, or use powdered formula instead of cans.
- Avoid bottles and plastic containers that are made from polycarbonate
(usually marked with a number 7 or the letters PC) and if you want to
reduce exposure to phthalates, avoid polyvinyl chloride (marked with a number 3
Phthalates: Is Your Food Plasticized?
Phthalates are a group of chemical "plasticizers" that are used in a
huge variety of consumer products, from PVC pipes to perfume. With billions of
pounds produced annually, phthalates ("THAL-ates") are everywhere.
They're even in the indoor dust we breathe. Random sampling by the CDC shows
most people in the U.S. have detectable levels of phthalates in their bodies.
Phthalates have been banned in the European Union since 2005. Nine other
countries, including Japan, Mexico and Argentina, have also outlawed the