BPA or Bisphenol-A

What is BPA?

BPA in Maine

Campaign to Get BPA Out of Our Food

Protect Your Family from BPA

References and Other Resources

 

What is BPA?

Bisphenol-A, or BPA for short, is a common chemical found in many consumer products such as the plastics used to make baby toys and the lining and lids of food containers. It is also frequently found in dental sealants, cash register receipts, reusable water bottles, and compact discs.

BPA mimics the hormone estrogen and has been associated with a whole host of adverse health effects including learning disabilities, infertility, breast cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and early onset of puberty. The Maine Center for Disease Control states that even low levels of BPA may be harmful to unborn babies, infants, and children.2

BPA is known to leach out of storage containers for water and other drinks, as well as from the linings of food cans, where it is then ingested. Studies have shown that most Americans have detectable BPA levels in their blood.3 A 2011 study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people who ate a small portion of canned soup every day for only five days had a ten-fold increase in blood levels of BPA.4

BPA in Maine:

Under Maine's Kid-Safe Products Act of 2008, BPA had been listed as a chemical of concern. In mid 2011, in a virtually unanimous vote by both houses of the Maine legislature, BPA became the first chemical to be banned under the Act. The law requires BPA to be eliminated from reusable food and beverage containers, such as children's sippy cups, by the start of 2012, but does not include food packaging like infant formula, infant food jars, and canned foods.

Testing by our coalition, the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, found BPA in all but one of twelve containers of baby food purchased in January, 2012 at four Maine retail outlets.5 We also tested three samples of canned foods aimed at young children: these all tested positive for BPA as well. All the samples were from six well-known food companies and included some organic labels.

In February of 2012, we announced our findings and kicked-off our campaign to get BPA out of foods made for infants and toddlers. In August, we submitted a citizen-initiated rulemaking to ban BPA in infant and toddler food sold in Maine.

We are excited to report that on January 17th 2013, the Board of Environmental Protection members called BPA "poison" and said they will support banning BPA from infant formula and baby food packaging. (The lids of some formula cans and baby food jars are lined with BPA). This rule will go the Maine Legislature to be voted on this year. The earliest the ban can take effect is August 15th, 2013.

We still have work to do. BPA is found in many canned foods (in the lining of the can) and other food packaging. To protect children in the womb, we need to get BPA out of all food packaging, including canned foods. LDA of Maine will be working on a current loophole in Maine law that prevents us from banning toxic chemicals in food packaging marketed to children over three and adults. Stay tuned!

Campaign to Get BPA Out of Our Food!

If BPA is removed from food packaging it could cut human exposure by two-thirds!

What You Can Do

1. Sign our petition to support our voter-initiated rulemaking to end BPA use in baby food in Maine (the rule goes to the Legislature next).

2. Write a letter to the editor

3. Testify at the public hearing

4. Ask your State Representative and Senator to support legislation to end all use of BPA in the food packaging

5. Share this with your friends

To get involved, contact: Tracy Gregoire at info@mainehealthychildrensproject.org

Protect Your Family from BPA:

You can reduce your exposure to BPA by taking some of the following steps:

  1. Use fresh ingredients when cooking
  2. Use frozen vegetables and meats if you can't buy fresh
  3. When purchasing canned foods, try to avoid those containing high fat and sodium, both of which may increase leaching of BPA from food liners.
  4. Avoid containers made from polycarbonate plastic, sometimes labeled PC on the bottom. Glass and steel containers do not contain BPA.
  5. Look for BPA-free labels on cans (Eden Foods sells BPA-free canned beans?

Check out The Breast Cancer Fund's wallet card which identifies 10 canned foods to avoid when trying to cut BPA exposure (see below for list, click here for wallet card)

The 10 canned foods to avoid:

Coconut Milk
Soup
Meat
Vegetables
Meals (e.g., ravioli sauce)
Juice
Fish
Beans
Meal-replacement drinks
Fruit

Campbell's Soup has announced it will phase out BPA from its cans, although it has not provided a time-line for the phase-out or identified what it will use as an alternative.

A note of Caution about BPA Alternatives

The evidence about BPA's harmful effects is fueling research into BPA-free alternatives. However, testing requirements for newly introduced chemicals are quite lax. The government reviews toxicity data provided by manufacturers of new chemicals, if such data exists; however in many cases companies are not required to conduct studies. Nor is there a requirement that toxicity experiments be conducted by a third party.

In addition, companies are not asked to test for potential harmful effects on the environment of chemical manufacture or disposal.

The take-home message is to use fresh and minimally processed foods as much as possible.

Questions about Home-Canning

If you are home-canning, you can purchase BPA-free lids from the Tattler company, however these lids may release the toxin formaldehyde at high temperatures. The company website claims formaldehyde is not released at the temperatures found in the typical home canning process. We are unable to find solid studies supporting or refuting these claims.

It is possible that even the traditional BPA-coated 2-part lids used in home-canning will result in less BPA exposure than supermarket canned foods because in the former case the food is only in contact with the lid during the canning process itself. Again, we have not found solid studies to confirm this.

Other Resources

BPA Fact Sheet by Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine

Maine Baby Food Testing Summary

Statement in support of BPA-free food from Mike Belliveau, Environmental Health Strategy Center Director

References

1 How to Protect Your Family from BPA (Bisphenol-A)

2 Calafat AM, Ye X, Wong L-Y, Reidy JA, Needham LL (2008). Exposure of the U.S. Population to Bisphenol A and 4-tertiary-Octylphenol; 2003-2004. Environmental Health Perspectives. 116(1):39-44.

3 Pope, Tara Parker (Nov. 22, 2011). BPA Lurks in Canned Soups and Drinks. New York Times.

4 Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine. New Test Results Reveal BPA in Baby Food, Canned Foods

5 Rudel RA, Gray JM, Engel CL, Rawsthorne TW, Dodson RE, Ackerman AM, Rizzo J, Nudelman J & Brody JG (2011). Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2-Ethylhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings from a Dietary Intervention. Environmental Health Perspectives. 119(7):914-920.