Plastic is everywhere around us. There’s no denying it. If you’re reading this article on a smartphone, there’s plastic in the device. If you’re on your lunch break, then there may be plastic containers or utensils on your table. Plastic is everywhere, and what’s in plastic might be pushing us to an early death.
A 2020 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that BPA exposure could lead to a 49% chance of early death. The study, which followed 3,883 U.S. adults, discovered that higher BPA levels in urine lead to higher mortality rates.
According to the Mayo Clinic, BPA is a shorter name for bisphenol A. An industrial chemical used to make plastics and resins, BPA has been in commercial products since the 1960s. Although deemed safe at low levels by the FDA, BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which can change hormones within the body.
Some examples of plastics that contain BPA are water bottles, dental composites and sealants, food containers, and paper receipts. Epoxy resins, which coat metal products like food cans, contain BPA. These BPA-filled resins also line bottle tops and water supply lines.
Although we aren’t necessarily chewing and ingesting large chunks of BPA at a time, BPA can still seep into our bodies. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that BPA most commonly comes from our diet. Although we can become exposed to BPA in our water and the air, the bulk of BPA in our bodies gets there through what we ingest.
Because food containers are either made up of or lined with BPA, they can leach into what we consume. Water bottles, microwaveable containers, food packaging, thermal paper, and baby bottles can contain BPA. Depending on age, integrity, and heat, BPA can seep into the food inside the containers — which we all then consume. BPA is widespread in humans. A 2003-2004 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found BPA levels in 93% of about 3,000 urine samples.
According to the CDC, it’s challenging to detect the long-term effects on humans, and more research is needed. Most BPA in humans, though detectable, is thought to be at safe levels. However, high BPA levels may result in fetal abnormalities and low birth weight. There may even be links to BPA and children’s behavior. In adults, BPA can impact blood pressure and may even cause erectile dysfunction.
Three adult disorders — obesity, diabetes, and heart disease — may all have links to BPA. They are also leading risk factors for many illnesses. Considering the new JAMA study results, it might be a good idea to take precautions against BPA exposure. The following are a few tips on limiting the amount of BPA that you might be taking into your body.
8. Check for BPA-Free Products
The FDA maintains that BPA products are safe at low levels. However, if you want to reduce your use of BPA products, look at the labels. More BPA-free products are available for use, especially when it comes to infant and baby products. For items without a label, recycle codes of 3 or 7 may indicate items with BPA in them.
7. Avoid Canned Foods
You can cut back on your everyday use of canned foods. Canned foods are great in a pinch, but try not to make them a daily food source. Avoid any heat with plastic items. Even food containers meant for the microwave or dishwasher can leak BPA.
6. Store Food in Glass or Stainless Steel
Those plastic containers may be lightweight and say “microwaveable,” but they may be leaching BPA into your food. When you microwave or place hot food into a plastic container, BPA can leak into the food. Instead, opt for glass or stainless steel to keep food inside. Porcelain works also!
5. Purchase Frozen or Dried Food
Instead of canned beans, you can buy them frozen or dried. Plastic wrapping doesn’t leach as much BPA in colder temperatures. And although dried beans take some extra cooking steps, they taste better.
4. Stay Away from Harsh Detergents
Harsh cleaning products and detergents can strip away layers of plastic and release BPAs. Use mild detergent instead, and avoid hot water.
3. Kick Your Bottled Water Habit
They may be convenient, but bottled water impacts the world negatively. Not only are they costly, but bottled water contributes needlessly to waste. Bottled water may also contain BPA. Even if your water is cold while drinking it, you don’t know if the bottled water was stored in heat during transport. This heat can cause BPA to leak into the bottles.
2. Buy and Store Food in Glass Jars
Instead of purchasing food in cans or storing them in plastic containers, you can use glass jars. Glass jars are a bit more expensive, but they’re reusable and pretty. You can drink out of them, too!
1. Watch How You Handle Your Receipts
Thermal paper receipts contain BPA. The most common source of thermal paper is the receipt you receive from each store you frequent. It’s worse if you use hand sanitizer and then handle the receipts because the chemicals can release the paper’s BPA.
Although the FDA remains firm in its stance that BPA is safe at its current levels, it does recognize the growing concern regarding BPA. The FDA continues to review the research and changes its recommendations to reflect new findings.
As a consumer, you can educate yourself about BPA. By making your own decisions about what you purchase and use, you can help protect yourself from BPA’s dangers.Related: You’re Eating Plastic in Every Bite of These Foods, Research Finds