BPA

What Is BPA? Understanding the Safety Concerns

You’ve likely heard warnings about BPA in plastic being potentially harmful to human health. But what exactly is this chemical, why is it used, and should you be concerned about exposure from day-to-day products?

This comprehensive guide will demystify BPA, examine proven and alleged health effects, and provide tips for minimizing contact with this controversial plastic compound. We’ll also cover how advanced filtration like used in Artic Refresh machines removes BPA from drinking water.

Understanding BPA Basics

BPA, or bisphenol A, is an organic synthetic compound used extensively in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Here’s a quick overview of this chemical:

  • Composition: BPA consists of two phenol rings combined with two methyl groups. Its chemical structure resembles estrogen hormones.
  • Development History: BPA was first synthesized in the 1890s but commercial production began in the 1950s by chemists in search of synthetic estrogens.
  • Modern Use: Today BPA has become pervasive in plastics manufacturing, with over 5 million pounds produced annually in the United States alone.
  • Where Used: BPA-derived materials appear in plastic bottles, food and beverage can linings, dental sealants, medical devices, and countless other items.

While a remarkable material for industrial applications, BPA unfortunately also poses potential health hazards for humans as you’ll learn shortly.

Why BPA is Used in Plastics

BPA serves several functions that make it a ubiquitous component of modern plastics:

Durability

  • The strong molecular bonds of BPA provide hardness and resilience to plastics, preventing cracking or deforming under heat or pressure.

Thermal Stability

  • Plastics retain their integrity at high temperatures thanks to BPA’s high melting point of over 300°F (150°C) before molecular breakdown.

Lightweight

  • BPA-based plastics are low density yet high strength, making products lighter without sacrificing durability.

Glass-Like Clarity

  • BPA enables crystal clear, transparent plastic production, ideal for food and beverage containers.

Low Cost

  • BPA is an inexpensive petrochemical to synthesize, keeping manufacturing costs affordable.

Given these desirable traits, BPA became essential for mass production of consumer plastics starting in the 1950s, despite potential human health effects being suspected early on.

How are People Exposed to BPA?

Given the ubiquity of BPA-containing plastics, human exposure is virtually constant in the modern world:

Food and Beverage Containers

  • Plastic bottles, food storage containers, can liners and other food packaging contain BPA that leaches into contents.

Dust and Air

  • Indoor air and dust accumulate BPA that is shed from plastics and inhaled or ingested. One study found BPA in over 90% of dust samples.

Cash Register Receipts

  • Thermal paper printed receipts are coated with BPA that is readily absorbed into the skin. BPA can be detected in the blood after holding receipts.

Dental Sealants and Fillings

  • Dental products like sealants and composites to repair teeth often contain BPA sources that leach into saliva.

Medical Devices

  • Many medical tools, equipment, and surgical accessories are made with BPA plastics that contact patients.

Given this constant exposure from multiple sources, BPA is detectable in the blood and urine of almost all people tested, suggesting its pervasiveness.

How Does BPA Enter and Accumulate in the Body?

Being lipophilic and chemically similar to estrogen, BPA easily penetrates cells and accumulates in fatty tissues after exposure through:

Ingestion

  • Eating and drinking from BPA-lined containers as well as absorbing residue from packaging leads to gastrointestinal uptake.

Absorption

  • BPA efficiently crosses cellular membranes including in the mouth where it passes into the bloodstream.

Inhalation

  • Lungs absorb both gaseous BPA in air and particles from dust containing BPA.

Skin Penetration

  • BPA is readily absorbed through the skin, especially if the skin is damaged or moisturized which facilitates crossing the epidermal barrier.

Once in the body, BPA preferentially accumulates in lipid-rich areas like breast and prostate tissues, bone marrow, ovaries, testes, placenta. Total body accumulation continues with chronic low-level exposure over years.

BPA Health Effects and Safety Concerns

The similarity of BPA’s chemical structure to estrogen means it can potentially trigger hormone-like reactions in the human body at sufficient concentrations. Here are effects demonstrated by studies:

Estrogenic Activity

  • Animal and cell culture studies confirm BPA exhibits dose-dependent estrogenic activity by binding to estrogen receptor sites, potentially altering endocrine function and disrupting normal sexual development.

Fetal and Infant Development

  • Numerous studies link early life exposure to low-dose BPA with adverse effects on reproductive organs and later infertility due to its hormone-like effects during sensitive developmental windows.

Premature Birth

  • Human fetus exposure to free unmetabolized BPA is associated with lower gestational age at birth according to measured placental concentrations.

Fertility Issues

  • BPA reduces sperm production in males. In females, BPA exposure damages oocytes, causes polycystic ovarian lesions, disrupts ovulation, and increases miscarriage risk according to data.

Breast and Prostate Cancer

  • While not definitive, multiple studies suggest BPA may play a role in progression or aggressiveness of certain hormone-dependent cancers.

Obesity

  • One proposed mechanism by which BPA acts as an obesogenic is by disrupting insulin release and metabolism. Some but not all human studies observe correlations between urinary BPA and obesity.

Neurological Effects

  • BPA crosses the blood-brain barrier where studies suggest it may influence neurotransmitters, cause brain lesions, and affect cognitive function and behavior.

Immune Function

  • Limited evidence points to BPA increasing immune cell inflammation through non-estrogenic pathways, potentially contributing to hypersensitivity and autoimmunity disorders.

Heart Disease

  • Human studies associate higher urinary BPA with increased cardiovascular diagnoses. Proposed mechanisms include lipid disruption, oxidative stress, inflammation, and blood pressure effects.

While more research is still needed on specific disease links and consequences of chronic low-dose exposure, the existing data provides reasons for caution regarding this hormone-like compound.

Notable BPA Bans and Restrictions

In light of the above health effects, the following bans and restrictions targeting BPA have been instituted:

  • Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups – Banned from containing BPA in the U.S. and Canada since 2010-2012.
  • Infant Formula Cans – Banned in BPA-containing can linings for infant formula since 2012 by FDA.
  • Children’s Toys – Restricted from containing BPA since 2008 by the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
  • Cash Register Receipts – Banned from containing BPA on receipts in certain states including California, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Rhode Island.

While complete elimination from food packaging remains challenging due to BPA’s usefulness, this chemical has become strictly regulated in products designed for babies and young children at least.

Avoiding Exposure to BPA

While nearly impossible to avoid entirely given BPA’s widespread use, you can minimize exposure through certain precautions:

  • Use glass, stainless steel, ceramic or wood over plastic containers whenever possible for food and drinks.
  • Never microwave food in plastic containers or with plastic film since heat accelerates leaching.
  • Avoid placing plastics in the dishwasher. Wash by hand gently. Harsh detergents worsen leaching.
  • Store foods and liquids in glass versus plastic to minimize leaching during storage.
  • Drink water from safe BPA-free bottles, filtered water stations, or your own filtration system.
  • Opt for fresh or frozen foods over canned and packaged items.
  • Look for BPA-free labels on products and avoid plastics marked with recycling codes 3 and 7.
  • Keep infants and children away from handling receipts printed on thermal paper.
  • Use gloves when handling receipts or paper currency. Wash hands after touching papers.

While practically unrealistic to totally eliminate contact today, individuals can still meaningfully reduce BPA exposures through mindful consumer choices.

How Artic Refresh Removes BPA from Drinking Water

Drinking bottled water rather than tap water seems an easy way to avoid BPA, but even certain brands of bottled water in BPA-lined containers contain detectable amounts of the chemical.

The most reliable way to obtain BPA-free drinking water is through advanced filtration systems like used by Artic Refresh:

  • Our rigorous reverse osmosis process removes both particulate and dissolved BPA from source water by forcing it through a selectively permeable membrane.
  • Our activated carbon filtration stage also absorbs remaining BPA residues for squeaky clean water.
  • Our regular filter replacements and sanitization procedures keep pipes and machine interiors from becoming sources of contamination.
  • Our air-tight, BPA-free water storage tanks and dispenser prevent any downstream leaching.

Drinking optimally purified water from Artic Refresh while limiting plastic bottle use is smart for decreasing BPA ingestion from questionable tap and bottled sources.

The BPA-Free Label Explained

You’ll see many products today boasting a “BPA-free” label. But what does this actually mean? Here’s what’s entailed for a BPA-free claim:

  • The product does not contain BPA in its final manufactured form. But precursor plastics used in processing may still involve BPA.
  • Manufacturers rely on alternative bisphenols such as BPS or BPF. But these similar compounds may pose comparable health risks according to emerging research.
  • Items are not manufactured using polycarbonate plastics or epoxy resins containing BPA.
  • Companies have switched machinery to prevent cross-contamination with BPA-containing production lines.
  • No detectable BPA above certain limits is present in finished products through mandated testing. But trace amounts remain possible.

So while BPA-free products are an improvement, risks from precursor BPA exposure or replacement analogs may still exist. Where possible, choose materials like glass and stainless steel over any type of plastic.

The Push to Regulate and Ban BPA

Despite bans on BPA in certain products, the majority of plastic goods and food packaging remain manufactured using this cheap chemical compound.

However, California is currently pursuing legislation in 2022-2023 to designate BPA as a known reproductive toxicant that requires cancer warnings on exposures under Proposition 65. If passed, this would prompt far more companies to abandon BPA due to required warning labels on their products.

Several other states are also considering proposals to impose stricter regulatory limits on BPA levels in food packaging. And momentum is building for removing BPA from all food contact plastics.

While federal action has lagged, regional efforts by states may slowly pressure industries to move away from this harmful but inexpensive chemical. In the interim, consumers should exercise caution when sourcing plastic goods and utilize filtration systems like Artic Refresh to provide BPA-free drinking water for families.

FAQ About BPA

What everyday products still contain BPA?

Canned food and beverage linings, rigid transparent plastic bottles, food storage containers, sippy cups, thermoses, Tupperware, LCD screens, thermal receipt paper.

Does bottled water contain BPA?

Certain brands of bottled water packaged in BPA plastic containers have detectable levels of BPA. Always check if unsure.

What conditions are linked to BPA exposure?

Reproductive issues, infertility, early puberty, obesity, neurological effects, immune problems, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers based on animal and human studies.

How does BPA get into drinking water?

Most municipal water supplies contain trace BPA from industrial wastewater pollution. Leaching can also occur from BPA-lined pipes, hoses, and tanks that comprise distribution systems.

Should pregnant women avoid BPA?

Yes, pregnant women should minimize BPA exposure given data showing prenatal exposure is linked to complications. Avoid canned goods, plastics numbered 3, 7 or missing numbers.

How can you remove BPA from water?

Advanced filtration systems using reverse osmosis and activated carbon as used by Artic Refresh machines reliably remove both particulate and dissolved BPA from drinking water.

Are BPA alternatives like BPS safe?

Limited evidence suggests common BPA replacement chemicals like BPS and BPF pose similar risks. The wisest option is avoiding plastics altogether when feasible by choosing glass, steel, and natural fibers.

How dangerous is BPA at typically encountered doses?

While BPA safety thresholds and long-term impacts continue being debated, evidence confirms even very low doses bioaccumulate over years and possess hormonal activity. Precautions seem warranted.

With vigilance of food packaging choices plus purified water from Artic Refresh, individuals and families can meaningfully reduce their BPA exposure. This prudence seems especially significant for pregnant women and young children. Stay informed and proactive!