BPA and you – what does it mean for your health?

In most in­stances, Aus­tralians are not be­ing pro­tected from BPA, and will for the fore­see­able fu­ture be able to avoid it only through be­com­ing in­formed, and then tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their health. BPA ex­po­sure has been linked to a range of el­e­vated h

Living Now - - Contents - by Martin Oliver

In most in­stances, Aus­tralians are not be­ing pro­tected from BPA, and will for the fore­see­able fu­ture be able to avoid it only through be­com­ing in­formed, and then tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their health. BPA ex­po­sure has been linked to a range of el­e­vated health risks, in­clud­ing breast can­cer, mis­car­riage, asthma and obe­sity.

MOST SHOP­PERS WILL have seen a grow­ing num­ber of prod­ucts on the shelves that are la­belled as ‘Bpa-free.’ So what does this re­ally mean?

Bisphe­nol-a is a syn­thetic chem­i­cal and a petro­chem­i­cal de­riv­a­tive that is used most com­monly as a hard­en­ing agent in plas­tics. Sub­ject to on­go­ing con­tro­ver­sies, ques­tions about its safety con­tinue to be raised in the face of re­as­sur­ances from the cor­po­rate sec­tor. In the mean­time, it re­mains in can lin­ings, poly­car­bon­ate plas­tic con­tain­ers, store re­ceipts, and some com­pos­ite den­tal ma­te­ri­als.

Xe­noe­stro­gens are en­docrine-dis­rupt­ing chem­i­cals that mimic nat­u­ral fe­male sex hor­mones, mis­guid­ing cell de­vel­op­ment in dys­func­tional ways. BPA is one among sev­eral xe­noe­stro­gens found in con­sumer prod­ucts; oth­ers in­clude ph­tha­lates and parabens. Tra­di­tion­ally it was as­sumed that chem­i­cal toxic haz­ards di­min­ish as the dose drops. BPA chal­lenges this as­sump­tion, with its ef­fects be­ing stronger at lower lev­els that more closely ap­prox­i­mate the con­cen­tra­tion of hor­mones in the body. BPA ex­po­sure has been linked to a range of el­e­vated health risks, in­clud­ing breast can­cer, mis­car­riage, asthma and obe­sity.

Among Euro­pean coun­tries, France has been par­tic­u­larly proac­tive, with the coun­try’s food safety agency ANSES ad­vis­ing preg­nant and nurs­ing women, in­fants and young chil­dren to avoid BPA from all sources.

As cut­ting-edge sci­en­tific data on BPA has be­come more con­cern­ing, France’s po­si­tion has been grad­u­ally tough­en­ing. French re­searchers, aided by a team from Aus­tralia’s Deakin Univer­sity, have iden­ti­fied a pow­er­ful oe­stro­gen re­cep­tor pro­tein path­way in the body that is about a thou­sand times more po­tent than other sim­i­lar re­cep­tors. These find­ings were pub­lished in 2014 in The Jour­nal of the Fed­er­a­tion of Amer­i­can So­ci­eties for Ex­per­i­men­tal Bi­ol­ogy.

At the start of 2015, France be­came the first coun­try to ban BPA from food­con­tact pack­ag­ing and uten­sils. Roughly 18 months ear­lier, it started re­quir­ing

all Bpa-lined cans to carry the warn­ing mes­sage, ‘Pack­ag­ing made us­ing Bisphe­nol-a. Use not rec­om­mended for preg­nant or breast-feed­ing women or for chil­dren un­der three.’ Along with Den­mark, Bel­gium and Swe­den, France has re­moved BPA from all food con­tain­ers in­tended for un­der-threes. It has also pro­posed a BPA ban for ther­mal re­ceipts.

France has also been tak­ing ac­tion on a range of other xe­noe­stro­gens, and has adopted an ac­tivist role within the EU, lob­by­ing the Euro­pean bloc to take a stronger stance on these chem­i­cals.

On its web­site, Food Stan­dards Aus­tralia New Zealand (FSANZ) hy­per­bol­i­cally states about BPA that the ‘over­whelm­ing weight of sci­en­tific opin­ion is that there is no health or safety is­sue at the lev­els peo­ple are ex­posed to’. The con­trast be­tween its po­si­tion and the one taken by author­i­ties in France is re­mark­able.

If this leaves you won­der­ing whether FSANZ might have been read­ing a dif­fer­ent set of stud­ies from the French, you could pos­si­bly be right. A 2005 re­view of sci­en­tific literature by re­searcher Fred­er­ick Vom Saal showed that 109 of 119 gov­ern­ment­funded stud­ies (92 per cent) iden­ti­fied sig­nif­i­cant ef­fects on rats and mice. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, none of the eleven in­dus­try-funded stud­ies that he ex­am­ined un­cov­ered harm­ful re­sults.

In most in­stances, Aus­tralians are not be­ing pro­tected from BPA, and will for the fore­see­able fu­ture be able to avoid it only through be­com­ing in­formed, and then tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for their health. As there is an al­pha­bet soup of other bisphe­nols that could in the fu­ture be­come widely used in con­sumer prod­ucts, the term ‘Bisphe­nol-free’ is more help­ful than ‘Bpa-free.’

BPA is com­monly found in canned food with both white and clear lin­ings, to pre­vent me­tal from com­ing in con­tact with the con­tents. Bpa-free cans are made by the Amer­i­can com­pany Eden Foods, by Heinz (for its baby food range only), and for a hand­ful of other prod­ucts. Eden Foods is us­ing baked-on ole­o­resinous C-enamel, and Heinz baby food cans have dis­pensed with a lin­ing al­to­gether.

For plas­tic bot­tles, BPA can be found in prod­ucts with re­cy­cling codes 3 (PVC) and 7 (poly­car­bon­ate.) In Aus­tralia, BPA in poly­car­bon­ate baby bot­tles and ‘sippy cups’ is sub­ject to a vol­un­tary phase-out and is less com­monly used. How­ever, over­seas test­ing has shown that the prob­lem of xe­noe­stro­gens in plas­tic is wide­spread; of plas­tics with re­cy­cling codes 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7, it was found that 72 per cent ex­hib­ited xe­noe­stro­genic ac­tiv­ity, ris­ing to 95 per cent af­ter wash­ing and mi­crowav­ing.

Store re­ceipts and other ther­mal pa­pers such as car­bon­less docket books and fax rolls com­monly con­tain BPA or its sis­ter chem­i­cal Bisphe­nol-s (BPS). Al­ter­na­tives in­clude min­imis­ing the time spent touch­ing re­ceipts, and de­clin­ing those that are non-es­sen­tial. If you han­dle re­ceipts regularly as part of your work, ask to use thin gloves.

Both BPA and BPS have been found to be con­tam­i­nat­ing the money sup­ply due to re­ceipts be­ing fre­quently stored next to ban­knotes; so try to keep them apart. Another rec­om­men­da­tion is to avoid re­cy­cling ther­mal pa­pers such as store re­ceipts, as this is caus­ing low-level BPA and BPS con­tam­i­na­tion of re­cy­cled pa­per prod­ucts.

About ninety per cent of den­tal com­pos­ite ma­te­ri­als con­tain a sub­stance known as BIS-GMA that leaches low lev­els of BPA into the body via the mouth. n

This is an is­sue for peo­ple who are look­ing to avoid amal­gam fill­ings due to the toxic mer­cury con­tent. In 2012, the New Eng­land Chil­dren’s Amal­gam Trial found that chil­dren who re­ceived com­pos­ite fill­ings con­tain­ing bis-gma had slightly worse be­hav­iour out­comes than those who re­ceived non-bis-gma ma­te­ri­als. There is an al­ter­na­tive avail­able, which some den­tists use.

Martin Oliver is a writer and re­searcher based in Lis­more.

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