Happy New Year! In our last topical post, we were talking about triclosan as an endocrine disrupting chemical, or EDC. (Click the link and read that post first for a primer on EDCs and their effects.) But there are over 800 such chemicals that can wreak havoc on our thyroid and adrenal glands, cause hormone-related cancers, affect fertility and more.
So, of course, triclosan isn’t the only EDC we encounter in our daily lives. (Check out the picture captions for a few things you can do right away to start getting EDCs out of your kitchen.) Bisphenol A, or BPA, is another big source of exposure, as well as… “Wait a minute!” you say, “The FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and kids’ cups in 2012!” Hang on, let me find my soapbox.
First, the FDA only decided to disallow the use of BPA in those products because manufacturers had already mostly stopped using it due to consumer demand. In fact, the FDA’s then-spokesman, Allen Curtis, said, “The agency continues to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food.” (Remember that; we’ll get back to it.) In other words, the FDA’s position was that they didn’t think BPA posed a danger, they just wanted to throw the industry a PR bone since they weren’t using BPA in kiddie stuff anyway. And it worked. Everybody kind of forgot about BPA since they didn’t have to worry about the kids anymore and their own reusable water bottles say “BPA-free” right there on the bottle. So groups such as the Environmental Working Group and the Natural Resources Defense Council that are trying to get the FDA to ban the use of BPA in other products aren’t having much luck. By the way, the EWG’s Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors is a helpful resource.
Second, not many people have stopped to wonder what manufacturers replaced BPA with in all those products in which they were no longer allowed to use it. Okay, quick science break. What is BPA? Basically, it’s a synthetic compound used since the 50s to harden plastics. So a manufacturer of plastics has to harden them with something. Thing is, BPA has relatives, one of which is bisphenol S. For all practical purposes, they’re the same thing, so manufacturers just subbed BPS for BPA. All good, right? Not even. BPS has all the same hormone-disrupting properties as BPA, except that it’s even more easily absorbed than BPA.
And remember, manufacturers were only required to stop using BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. Your reusable water bottle only says “BPA-free” on it because savvy marketers figured out they could capitalize on the baby bottle hype and get people to buy a lot of stuff if they used that phrase. So here’s where we get back to the part about the FDA maintaining that BPA is safe for use in food containers. This is important because most of the BPA in our bodies got there because we ingested it. That’s right, BPA isn’t just in the plastic bottles beverages come in, it’s also in the vast majority of canned food. It’s used in a resin lining in food cans that’s supposed to help seal the can and prevent spoilage. But that BPA also leaches into the food inside the can.
By the way, the category of “food and beverage containers” also includes soda cans. Again, though, ditching soda is one of those little changes that will do wonders for your health, your wallet and the planet.
Of course, there are other sources of exposure to bisphenol compounds. One in particular we’d like to mention is thermal paper (e.g. receipts, airline boarding passes, copy paper, recycled paper products, etc.). While not directly related to your kitchen, we are all exposed to it pretty much every day. Fortunately, you can reduce this type of exposure. First, request “no receipt” unless you absolutely have to have one. Some alternatives are to note the expense, date, amount, etc. for your records or to snap a picture of the gas pump or receipt. If you must take the paper receipt, make sure your hands are dry and free of grease (moisture and grease increase the absorption of BPA) and wash your hands within two hours (studies show that BPA can be washed off if done within that time). Remember how your elders used to tell you that money was dirty and you should wash your hands after handling it? Well, they were right. Because of its frequent contact with thermal paper, currency is also a source of exposure.
A CDC study published in 2008 reported findings of BPA in the urine of 93 percent of the subjects tested. So while it may not be realistic to expect to eliminate these EDCs from our lives completely, the tips provided here are a good start. There are many, many other sources of exposure to bisphenol-type EDCs and many strategies for avoiding them that also happen to double as health-promoting and money-saving actions. Please contact us if you’d like help reducing your exposure to these and other EDCs.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to see a practical demonstration of how easily we absorb EDCs, Dateline did an interesting report. Check out the two videos below.
Update 8/31/17: There used to be two great videos embedded here that Dateline did in 2013 about hormone disruptors. Unfortunately, when Flash died, it seems NBC didn’t convert videos in their archives to anything that’s playable now. BUT if you’d like to read the transcripts of those segments, click for Part 1 and Part 2.
And please leave us a comment in the comments section. Where have you encountered EDCs? What effects on your health have they had? What concerns do you have about EDCs?