A new study about BPA hit the presses recently, indicating links between it and the obesity and diabetes epidemic. It’s very worthy of a read, but if you’re pressed for time, I’ll cut to the chase: researchers in Spain believe they have shown that BPA, by mimicking estrogen, compels the body to release almost double the insulin needed to break down food. Previous research by others indicates that increased insulin production may lead to weight gain and the onset of type II diabetes.
I’m glad to see such a finding making its way into the popular press, I’m a bit disappointed to report that the rest of the article is more editorial than scientific by mentioning implications and suggesting some thinly supported conclusions. It’s conjecture, not science.
I struggle, furthermore, with some of the comments, mainly those that do more to reveal ignorance than shed light on the topic. Should we just just eliminate plastic from our lives because of this report? Well, notwithstanding that the bulk of our BPA exposure comes not from plastic, but through canned foods and cash register receipts, I’m afraid eliminating plastic would be an overreaction to this research. Yes, this is further evidence that BPA has some very serious issues that warrant a cold hard look at whether any benefit that BPA might offer is outweighed by its cost.
To wit: recall that canned foods are a major culprit for BPA in our diets. Would you rather have home-grown tomatoes that are canned in glass jars (but the only lids available to seal the jars have BPA), or organic tomatoes packaged in tetrapaks that are BPA-free BUT aren’t recyclable?
In all honesty, I do not have an answer for that – not for myself, not for you. maybe the only answer is “don’t eat tomatoes out of season.” Sigh.
Not all plastics have, or are produced using, BPA. Polycarbonate is the resin of concern, and even then many polycarbonate items have removed BPA from its production. Polyethyene (#2 and #4) and polypropylene (#5, the plastic used for the food containers in Lunchsense) do not contain BPA. What’s more, the alternatives to plastics have their own issues that should not be ignored.
Returning to BPA and this most recent finding, you may ask, “Just how much research do we need to convince everybody that this is nasty stuff and it shouldn’t be used?” Great question, and one that scientists grapple with all the time. Here’s a recent interview with a researcher who has strong opinions (supported with research) about the dangers of BPA; others draw different conclusions from similar research.
It begs the bigger question still: ”Can the scientific method, in light of the extraordinarily complex network of causes and effects we have created in our modern life, even adequately examine these relationships and draw meaningful conclusions?”
I’m just chock full of questions. No answers here today, I’m sorry to say. Whether we’ve chosen to do so or not, we all have to live with uncertainty brought about by our modern living.
So NOW what do we do?
Avoid BPA whenever possible: Personally, I feel that there’s enough evidence to steer clear of it whenever possible. I strongly encourage you to read this excellent summary of BPA sources (part one and part two).
Be informed: Just like our food intake should be varied, so also should be our information intake. Please don’t allow one report dictate your every move, but do give several reports undertaken by independent facilities that reach similar conclusions a measure of credibility. Furthermore, give yourself permission to think long and hard about these topics. If there were simple answers we might have found them already.
Help inform others: Share the links. Discuss, civilly.
p.s. I chose to title the post as I have because it does indeed reflect my stance on this chemical. However, I also have another opinion which I feel passionately about, but it makes a really lousy post title: “Living with Ambiguity.” It’s what we do, so we should learn to abide with it. Embrace it, even.