Have you seen cyclists tipping their sports bottles upside-down lately to read the recycling code on the bottom? Here’s the reason. Recent news about bisphenol-A’s (BPA) potential health risk to adults has cyclists worried. And well they should.
The dangers of bisphenol-A to fetuses and babies has been known for some time. It increases the risk of certain cancers, adversely affects fertility and may contribute to hyperactivity. Manufacturers of plastic baby bottles and baby food containers have taken steps to remove BPA from their products.
Until now, BPA was considered safe for adults at the levels most are exposed to. That changed in September 2008 when the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study, raising alarms. It found that people with the highest amounts of BPA in their urine had more than twice the incidence of heart disease and diabetes than those with low-urine BPA levels.
Why Is Bisphenol-A A Risk To Adults?
BPA mimics estrogen, a hormone both women and men produce, that regulates functions of the reproductive system, and helps regulate growth development, tissue function, and sexual function. Getting an extra dose of it isn’t healthy, especially when the substance that’s mimicking the hormone is a toxic chemical.
Already linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, bisphenol-A is now implicated in other diseases. Dr. Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri says, “We have a very high level of confidence that at human-exposure levels, bisphenol A is causing disease.”
How Much Bisphenol-A Are You Exposed To?
The benefits of BPA for the food and beverage industry are many, which is why it’s so widely used. It looks and feels like glass, but weighs less and is difficult to break. Like glass, it doesn’t absorb or change the flavour of what’s contained in it. It’s estimated that 6.6 billion pounds of BPA is produced world-wide each year.
As well as being used in the production of polycarbonate plastics, bisphenol-A is in the epoxy resins that line the inside of most food and beverage cans. That means there’s lots of it around.
How To Decipher Bottle Codes
There are steps you can take to limit your exposure to bisphenol-A. Check the code number on the bottom of your water bottles and stop using the bottles that pose the highest risk.
Avoid These Plastic Bottles
#7: Bisphenol-A is a major component of polycarbonate (PC) plastics. If you have any of these around do yourself a favour and throw them out. However, not all #7 plastic bottles are polycarbonate. A safe alternative is made of polylactic (PLA). How do you tell them apart? Polycarbonate plastic is clear and very hard. Polylactic plastic has a cloudy appearance and is more pliable. If you’re in doubt about which one you have, don’t guess, call the manufacturer.
#6: Polystyrene (PS) may leach styrene, a possible endocrine disruptor and human carcinogen, into water and food.
#3: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) commonly contains di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), an endocrine disruptor, to soften the plastic.
Plastic Bottles Considered Safe
#1: Water, pop and juice come in these bottles made from polyethylene terephalate. They are intended for single use only. If you’ve been trying to save the environment by reusing them, you may be putting your health at risk. BPA is leached out of the plastic with repeated use, exposure to heat, or too long a shelf life. When used more than once, these bottles also harbour bacteria.
#2: High-density polyethylene HDPE
#4: Low-density polyethylene LDPE
#5: Polypropylene (PP)
Steps Toward Banning Bisphenol-A
In October 2008 Health Canada added bisphenol-A to Canada’s list of toxic substances. This will bring renewed scrutiny to the use of this chemical in our plastic bottles and food cans.
In our December Issue learn about new alternative BPA-free water bottles.