What Is BPA?

BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical that has been used since the 1960s to make some plastics and resins. BPA is found in plastic food and drink packaging, such as water bottles, plastic ware (e.g., baby bottles, food storage containers, cups, bowls) and the inside coatings of some food cans, bottle tops and water pipes. It is also used in the production of other items, like compact discs (CDs) and certain medical devices. There are some concerns about the impact of BPA on human health and development.

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How Does BPA Exposure Occur?

The main source of BPA exposure is through the diet. Air, dust and water are other possible sources of BPA exposure, and the chemical also can be found in breast milk. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), levels of exposure to BPA through the diet are not considered unsafe at this time (as of March 2012).

What Are the Specific Concerns about BPA?

Some studies, including recent animal studies, have raised questions about BPA safety. In the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2003 and 2004, detectable levels of the chemical were found in urine samples of 93 percent of people over the age of 6 years old who were tested.

Comprehensive studies conducted by the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) since 2008 show that BPA is quickly metabolized and eliminated from the body in babies, children and adults, and exposure to the chemical in human infants is about 84 to 92 percent less than previously thought.

Conclusions of this National Toxicology Program report on BPA are as follows:

  • Negligible concern for adverse effects: Reproductive toxicity in adult men and women and newborn malformations and birth defects
  • Minimal concern for adverse effects: Developmental toxicity for fetuses, newborns, infants and children (i.e., early puberty in females); and reproductive toxicity related to occupational exposure to BPA
  • Some concern for adverse effects: Developmental toxicity for fetuses, newborns, infants and children (i.e., effects on brain development, behavior and the prostate gland in males)

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Tips to Reduce BPA Exposure

At this time, the Food and Drug Administration does not recommend changes to food consumption—in babies, children or adults—that might compromise good nutrition. Studies have shown that the degree to which BPA leaches from plastics and resins into foods and liquids depends in part on the temperature of the food, liquid or container. According to the FDA, consumers should not put very hot foods or liquids into plastic containers with BPA, or microwave food in these containers.

If you're concerned about your family’s exposure to BPA, here are some additional steps you can take to help reduce that exposure:

  • Check the recycle codes found on the bottom of plastic containers. Those that are marked with the number 3 or 7 may contain BPA.
  • Use plastic products that are BPA free.
  • Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers whenever possible (especially for hot foods and liquids).
  • Don’t use plastic containers that are scratched. If the container contains BPA, higher amounts of the chemical may leach into foods or liquids. Scratches can also interfere with proper cleaning and harbor bacteria.

Sources: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 29 Apr 2012

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015