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As if we needed another reason to ban BPA
Feb 17th, 2012 by Nancy

Most cans have BPAA 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.

It's everywhere: BPA on credit card receipts
Apr 21st, 2010 by Nancy

Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake.  credit card receipts

The following information hit the presses last autumn (here is the report), and I’m only now finding it and passing it on to you, my fine readers.  The gist of the story (which warrants its own read, as it’s full of information and additional links) is that credit card receipts using  thermal imaging processes – the slick, shiny stuff that creates prints from a chemical reaction when heat is applied to the paper, as opposed to traditional ink-printed papers – are coated with bisphenol-A, the endocrine disrupting chemical.

I regret to say that the jury is still out about a definitive link between BPA and human health – google “BPA health effects” and march down the links, and you’ll get just a sampling of the spectrum  – but I’m comfortable saying it is implicated in a host of troubles.  It’s the same BPA that has plenty of people concerned about use of any plastics; the same BPA that compelled Canada to ban polycarbonate baby bottles and Japan to ban it outright; and the same BPA that is NOT found in any Lunchsense products.

One unsettling (and instructive) point in this most recent report, however, is the quantity of BPA we’re talking about.  The amount which may leach from a polycarbonate bottle or a can liner is measured in nanograms, while that which shows up on a single receipt is 60 to 100 milligrams.

That’s a thousand-fold difference.

Now for a shorthand science lecture:  We all believe in a linear relationship when we think about toxic materials and health effects.  In other words, a small dose of some material has a small effect, and a larger dose of the same material has a larger effect.  Here’s the rub: This dose-response relationship may not hold true for hormone-mimicking chemicals – the greatest effect may occur with a small dose, and our bodies may not respond at all to a large dose of the same material.

So where I can say “that’s a thousand-fold difference” for dramatic effect, I admit it may be meaningless.

The bottom line: we don’t know what’s going on.

If you find that this post is all over the map, then you’re perceptively picking up on my sentiments about the topic.  I DON’T know what’s going on with BPA, but in the meantime I’ll be sure to keep it out of the Lunchsense lunchboxes, food containers, ice packs, and drink bottles.

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