A lot of things we use daily are made of plastic. However, intense exposure to certain plastic components may be hazardous to our health. BPA, in particular, is considered by experts as a harmful chemical found in plastics.
What is BPA?
Polycarbonate is a type of plastic used in a wide variety of applications due to its hardness and durability. We may encounter this as eyewear lenses, medical devices, polycarbonate roofing, lighting fixtures, and food and beverage containers. Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics.
When polycarbonate products are made, not all of the BPA is sealed in. So when the fluids or food are placed in the container, parts of the BPA might break free and mix with the contents, and enter the body upon ingesting them. BPA can also be found in the air, dust, and surface and ground water.
Why is BPA harmful?
BPA is believed to have a similar structure as the hormone estrogen and could even mimic its function. Our bodies are sensitive to fluctuations in hormone levels and, since BPA can imitate and replace hormones, it can have adverse effects on our health.
The reproductive system can be affected by BPA. For women, exposure to BPA can affect puberty and ovulation, which may lead to infertility. It could also interfere with egg maturation in pregnant women and cause fetal health problems. BPA is also linked to male impotence, as it could increase the risk of erectile dysfunction, low libido and problems with ejaculation.
Low-dose BPA exposure may lead to cardiovascular problems, like angina, coronary artery disease, hypertension, heart attack, and peripheral artery disease. This degree of exposure might also trigger atherosclerosis, arrhythmias and blood pressure changes. It could contribute to insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes as well.
People who were exposed to BPA in the womb may also have increased risk of breast, prostate and other kinds of cancers. When treating breast cancer through chemotherapy, BPA is also observed to reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.
How can you reduce BPA exposure?
Some scientists are still divided on whether or not BPA is truly harmful for our health and, if it is, the extent of the harm it could cause. If you do not want to risk being exposed to BPA though, here are some things you may consider doing:
Reduce canned goods consumption. Polycarbonate resin is used as lining for cans, so cutting back on canned food would lower your BPA exposure.
Use BPA-free alternatives. More manufacturers are creating BPA-free products, which would be labeled as such. But if a plastic product does not have that label, keep in mind that some plastics with recycle codes 3 or 7 may contain BPA.
Avoid heating plastic containers. When microwaved or placed in the dishwasher, polycarbonate plastics could gradually break down and allow BPA to leach into food and drinks.
Cut back on plastic containers. Instead of putting hot foods and liquids into plastic containers, consider using porcelain, stainless steel or glass containers.
Do not hesitate to consult with your healthcare provider if you think you may be at risk of health problems caused by BPA or to just learn more about its dangerous effects.