December 29, 2011
I purchased a new water bottle for my 12
year-old for school over the weekend.
When I presented it to her, she asked me
is if it was BPA (Bisphenol A) free. Not even understanding what BPA meant or what
harm it can cause, the fact that she was aware of it was rather
surprising. In explaining to her what BPA was, I realized I really
didn’t know all that much about it other than there was a link to
So, October being breast cancer
awareness month, I decided to do a bit of research on BPA and its
link to breast cancer.
Breast cancer has increased from 1 out of every 20 women in 1960 to
1 out of every 8 women today. In Canada, it is the most frequently
diagnosed cancer with an estimated 23,200 women diagnosed this year.
A lot of attention and research has been done recently around the
link between BPA and breast cancer and although there are
discrepancies in the research, there was enough concern for
legislation to be passed eliminating BPA in plastic bottles and
What is BPA?
BPA is a controversial chemical that is found in many hard plastics
as well as in the linings of metal food cans.
BPA is known to mimic the hormone
estrogen in the body and may interfere with the body’s endocrine
system. Recent studies have linked BPA exposure to breast and
prostate cancer in animals and obesity and thyroid productive
abnormalities, as well as neurologic disorders in humans.
In 2008, the FDA said current research supports the safety of low
levels of human exposure to BPA. But in 2010 the agency revised its
stance to say recent studies suggest there may be some uncertainty
about the health risks of BPA.
Interestingly, I came across two items that I was not aware of and
honestly, it was a definite eye-opener.
First, I had no idea that recycled
toilet paper contained BPA’s and that BPA enters into our wastewater
and tap water because of this. Being an eco-conscious consumer, I
have always purchased recycled toilet paper.
Apparently, the source of BPA in toilet paper is not due to the fact
that it is added deliberately to the product, but that a lot of
toilet paper is made from post-consumer sources that include lots of
recycled thermal printing paper (credit card receipts). Dresden
University did a study examining BPA turning up in wastewater
streams and traced it back to toilet paper.
Ultimately, it’s sources like these that
are the reason you probably have BPA (albeit at extremely low
concentrations) in your tap water, too. Of course, the same can be
said for other kinds of recycled paper as well.
The second item that was definitely disconcerting was the recent
report indicating that some canned soups and meals marketed to
children contain BPA. According to the report, all of the products
tested positive for the chemical, and Campbell’s Disney Princess and
Toy Story soups contained the highest levels.
A spokesman for Campbell’s says
regulatory agencies say the amount
of BPA in canned foods doesn’t pose a threat to health. However, the
average level of BPA in the 12 items tested was 49 ppb (parts per
billion) and ranged from 10 to 148 ppb.
The EPA - Environmental Protection Agency’s
estimate of safe exposure level is 50 ppb per day.
“One serving might be a concern, but
a combination of repeated and re-exposure to BPA from cans
marketed to kids is a bigger concern,” says Connie Engel, PhD,
science education coordinator at the Breast Cancer Fund, which
conducted the study.
“The combination of these foods with other foods like canned
fruits, juices, or vegetables would add up to levels of BPA
exposure associated with breast cancer, prostate cancer,
infertility in girls, and ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder],” says Engel.
Cooking healthy nutritious and if
possible organic foods is really key to keeping our children healthy
With busy schedules and hectic lives, it
is difficult to ensure a healthy meal everyday. However, more and
more grocery stores are stocking prepared organic alternatives.
As for the toilet paper issue, I am
perplexed, there are alternatives, such as bamboo toilet paper and
bidets but realistically until the cost of these items decreases and
general accepted use increases it is unlikely that this will change.
Consumer awareness and demand for
alternatives will take time, but with additional research and
exposure there is hope that manufacturers of these products will
look at healthier alternatives.