Hidden Sources of BPA (And Why You Should Care)

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Hidden sources of BPA and why alternatives may be worse
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Hidden Sources of BPA (And Why You Should Care)

By now, most people have at lease a passing familiarity with BPA, a chemical found in many plastics, and make an effort to avoid it, yet many of us still miss some of the hidden sources.

What is BPA?

BPA (bisphenol-A) is a synthetic estrogen used in making many plastic products like plastic bottles, baby bottles, children’s toys and even medical devices. It is also part of the epoxy resin that lines many metal cans, like those used for canned vegetables, fruits and meats.

An average 6 billion pounds of this chemical are produced each year.

The Problems with BPA

Many people avoid bisphenol-A after reports showed that it is an endocrine disruptor and that it may raise blood pressure. (1,2) BPA can leach into foods from plastic bottles or canned goods. Some factors, like the temperature of what is stored in the plastic/can and its acidity can affect the amount of bisphenol-A that transfers into the food or drink.

Though it has been found in air, water and dust, the main source of BPA exposure for most humans is foods and drinks stored in containers that contain it.

But does it end up in your body? Short answer- yes…

Long answer- A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) study found detectable levels of BPA in the urine of 93% of people (6 and up) who were tested. Additionally, it has been found in breastmilk and newborn babies, suggesting that it might store in the body and could potentially cross the placenta.(3,4)

Since it is an endocrine disruptor,bisphenol-A may also lead to hormone imbalance, infertility, early puberty, increased risk of reproductive cancers, low sperm count and other hormone-related problems.

Other research has shown a link between BPA and asthma, obesity and breast cancer.

While the dangers of bisphenol-A were once thought to be most harmful if used regularly over time, recent research has shown that even a one-time exposure can create problems within a few hours. The study compared two groups of people: those who drank a beverage from a BPA-lined can and those who drank the same beverage from a glass container.

The researchers found that those who drank from the BPA-lined cans had a rise in BPA in their urine within two hours… and a rise in blood pressure during the same time period. (In fact, those who drank from the BPA lined cans had a 16 times higher level of BPA in their urine.

We already knew from past research that bisphenol-A can increase the risk of hypertension, blood pressure problems and heart rate variability (5), but now we know that this is an almost immediate change.

Canada banned BPA from children’s products in 2010, and many other countries have taken this step as well. China, France, Denmark, Belgium and Austria all limit BPAs use in food.

There are many reasons to consider avoiding bisphenol-A, but actually doing so can be much more difficult that you’d think…

Hidden Sources of Bisphenol-A

We know that BPA is found in many plastics and especially water bottles (which is one of the many reasons to avoid them), but it may also be hiding in places you wouldn’t expect:

  • Canned Goods: It is often used in the lining of the cans used for vegetables, soups, fruits and other foods. Since it is present during the high-heat canning and sterilization process, it may be present in even higher levels in these foods. Solution: Use fresh or frozen fruits and veggies.
  • Receipts: Paper receipts are often lined with BPA. This includes airline receipts, movie tickets and any receipts printed on thermal paper. The EWG warns that it can transfer to your hand from the receipt and enter your body through your skin or if you touch food or your mouth. Solution: Skip the receipt. Even if you get and recycle the receipt, it may contaminate recycled paper products like toilet paper. 
  • Dental Sealants: Dental sealants and composites can contain bisphenol-A. Solution: Talk to your dentist before any dental work.
  • Plastic Wrap: Often contains bisphenol-A and other plastic chemicals. Solution: Use parchment paper, glass storage containers or homemade food wrap instead.
  • Coffee Pot: Sadly, many coffee pots are a source of BPA and since hot water is used, there is a higher chance of it leaching into food. Solution: Use a French Press or Glass Kettle instead. 
  • Soda Cans: So there are many other reasons you shouldn’t be drinking soda, but you can add this to the list. Even “healthier” sodas made with stevia can have BPA in the lining. Solution: Avoid drinking soda.
  • Plastic and Paper Cups: Plastic cups often contain bisphenol-A, but paper cups are often lined with it too. Solution: Bring your own reusable mug (and the planet will thank you too). 
  • Other Kitchen Plastics: Bisphenol-A is also found in many kitchen plastics besides water bottles, including plastic food storage, plates, utensils and cups. Here is a good guide to going BPA-free in your kitchen and a review of my favorite plastic-free water bottle.
  • CDs and DVDs: A small source, but consider switching to digital copies of your favorite music and movies.

Beyond BPA: Other Plastic Problems

Recently, someone tried to give me a water bottle at a chiropractors office. I replied that I don’t use plastic and she replied that “Oh, don’t worry, it is BPA free. Most plastics are now so there is really nothing to worry about.” And I cringed…

Here’s the thing- BPA is certainly one of the bigger problems with plastics, but it is by no means the only one. In fact, some of the BPA-free alternatives may be just as harmful, or more so.

I think that one of the few negative effects of the widespread awareness of the problems with bisphenol-A is the safety many people feel when using BPA-free alternatives.

Products labeled as BPA-free often contain substitutes like bisphenol-S or bisphenol-F, both of which were found to have just as much of a hormonal effect (or more) than bisphenol-A.(6)

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sums it up well:

Here we demonstrate that bisphenol A exposure during a time point analogous to the second trimester in humans has real and measurable effects on brain development and behavior. Furthermore, our study is the first, to our knowledge, to show that bisphenol S, a replacement used in BPA-free products, equally affects neurodevelopment. These findings suggest that BPA-free products are not necessarily safe and support a societal push to remove all structurally similar bisphenol analogues and other compounds with endocrine-disruptive activity from consumer goods. Our data here, combined with over a dozen physiological and behavioral human studies that begin to point to the prenatal period as a BPA window of vulnerability, suggest that pregnant mothers limit exposure to plastics and receipts.

The Bottom Line

Bisphenol-A carries a lot of potential health hazards, and BPA-free substitutes may be even more harmful. Though it is difficult, the best option is to avoid plastics and other BPA-containing substances (like receipts, canned goods, etc).

The good news is that bisphenol-A has a relatively short half-life so it is possible to reduce levels quickly and drastically by avoiding common exposure.

Do you avoid BPA? What was the hardest thing for you to give up?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


43 responses to “Hidden Sources of BPA (And Why You Should Care)”

  1. Victor Nyu Avatar
    Victor Nyu

    Refuse your purchase receipt, get approached at the door by store security who for any reason whatsoever thinks you may be a shoplifter, your cashier has gone on her break…….
    Wondering if the wet tissues I always carry with me will adequately cleanse BPA from the register receipts as I trust it does the other stuff potentially transferred to my fingers from the cashiers’ hands!?!

  2. James Avatar

    Very interesting article. I cannot help but wonder if these and other chemicals are behind the huge explosion of trannies? Endocrine disruptors are the most likely to be the cause of this disorder, surely? I put forward that their condition can be helped or eventually reversed by elimination of these poisons.

  3. Susan Avatar

    Which is worse? Consuming tap water with flouride or drinking bottled water with BPA bottles. At this point in my life, I have to choose one or the other. I currently am drinking the bottled water and reducing exposure elsewhere, but wanted to know which is the better of the 2 evils.

  4. Gabrielle Avatar

    I have been trying to find a baking sheet liner that is not made with plastic. My friend who his a chef said that muffins I made with “natural” brown cupcake/muffin liners tasted funny. After a lot of research I found out that “wax” paper, parchment papers and muffin/cupcake paper-type liners are all coated with plastic. Your beeswax/cloth bag reminds me of a product a woman has also made and sells on the web.

    I think of all of the “paper” plates and parchment and wax papers I used to reheat foods when I used to microwave my lunches 7 years ago when I was pregnant with my first. FYI – Premature babies are so vulnerable, too – all that tubing that is in them for breathing & feeding – no doubt these are all BPA – life-saving technology has its costs.

    It all just makes me cringe. I pray for the health of my kids and make as many great meal solutions as I can by cooking “clean” foods from scratch. Thanks for sharing so much with us all!

  5. Pat Avatar

    When learning about the toxic chemicals in plastic bottles, etc. I STOPPED buying anything that is packaged in plastic. That does not leave much to choose from but that’s OK by me. To me, if a company values the product it sells they will have the best kind of packaging not simply “cheap and dirty”. Today our society is all about $$$$ and the public health, safety and welfare be damned.

    When the public starts to demand better, even if that means NOT buying the products and letting the manufacturer know why…so be it. As long as we just go along…it’s the consumer’s fault for “cheap and dirty.”

    In speaking with the manager of our local “Smart and Final” and inquiring if they carried any juices in glass bottles his response was…”The reason why everything is in plastic is because its cheaper to bottle in plastic than glass.” He agreed that he was concerned because “when you leave a plastic water in a hot car, that’s when the toxic chemicals are released into the liquid in the bottle.” That was just one of his reasons.

    There is very little packaged in glass bottles anymore but when I spot something bottled in glass – spaghetti sauces, certain Apple Cider’s, sauerkraut….I buy it. When I am through with the contents I wash it out good and add filtered or sterile water and store the water away for when the SHTF!

    Also, I do a lot of canning of meats, beans, fruits and veggies, etc. When I don’t have a full canner…say, I am canning up 5 quarts of peaches, for example, and the canner holds 7 quarts…I add 2 quart jars of water and can that up to fill the canner. I store the sterile water for later use. Since the water is sterile, it can be used not only for drinking but any medical need that comes along.

    The public has to become educated and demand better quality and better packaging. even if it means not buying. As long as we simply just go along to get along…we will get what we deserve……”cheap and dirty”…like our politicians!!

  6. Bev Avatar

    Wondering what is used in the lining of the lids on canning jars? We can a lot of food and I think you do also Katie – have you ever looked into that?

  7. Barbara Avatar

    Excellent post! I have been phasing out cans and plastic for a while now. Thanks for all the links to alternative storage ideas.
    I’ll definitely be telling the cashiers that I’ll pass on the receipt. 🙂
    Hope you have a healthy week..

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