Words by Building Biologist and Naturopath, Nicole Bijlsma
Despite the fact that the Japanese phased out BPA as an epoxy resin in food tins since the late 1990s, western countries continue to use it in most food tins and other forms of packaging. Its ubiquitous use has meant that it is found in 90% of the female population and not surprisingly, its use has also correlated with an almost doubling in the incidence of breast cancer. A report – “Body of Evidence An Overview of the Low Dose Effects of BPA in Relation to Breast Cancer” provides an in-depth and well-referenced document outlining the concerns associated with the use of BPA in food packaging. And if you think buying BPA-free products is the way to go – THINK AGAIN! A 2011 study found over 90% of over 500 plastic products marketed as BPA-free, released chemicals that, in some cases, had greater oestrogenic activity than the BPA-containing plastics (Yang et al, 2011). When it comes to hormone disrupting chemicals, it is not the dose that determines how toxic they are, but the fact they are present at all. This is because it is the timing and duration of exposure that determines what impact these chemicals have on the body – not the dose. The lower the levels, the greater the response by the body. Therefore, babies and children SHOULD NOT drink from plastic containers.
So are BPA free plastics safe or are they just a reaction by manufacturer’s to satisfy consumer confidence?
So many manufacturers are using bisphenol-S as an alternative to BPA, which is also demonstrating hormone disrupting effects in animal studies and found in paper products such as receipts, toilet paper, tickets, magazines and the like.
There are several issues associated with BPA-free plastics:
- ALL PLASTICS LEACH CHEMICALS! There are thousands of chemicals (phthalates such as BBP and DEHP, bisphenol s (BPS), nonylphenol…) used in plastics, many of which are demonstrating hormone like effects in animal studies. The type of chemicals that leach will depend on the type of plastic used and may include monomers, inks, plasticizers, benzene derivatives and additives (Simoneau, van den Eede and Valzacchi, 2011). The migration of these chemicals into our food and beverages is accelerated when plastics are exposed to heat and light which is why plastics should NEVER be heated in a microwave oven, kept in a hot car or put in a dishwasher (even the top shelf).
- There is no legislation to enforce plastic manufacturers to test their products for harmful effects or to prove they are safe. Like most household products, they can put whatever chemicals they like in their products. Consequently, the great majority of chemicals used to replace BPA such as bisphenol S, have not been tested for human health effects. Not surprisingly, many BPA-free bottles such as Tritan Copolyester and Polyethersulfone are now displaying hormone disrupting effects (Dearing, 2009).
- Several BPA free drinking water bottles that were tested from global companies still contained BPA in minute quantities (CBC News 2009).
The inherent nature of plastics is to degrade when exposed to light and heat – no matter what resins they are derived from. Consequently, all plastic bottles will leach chemicals.
Here is Nicoles interview on Channel 10’s The Circle about plastics, early onset puberty and the increased risk of breast cancer. Worth a watch for sure (7 minutes).
In 2009, my husband Mark and I researched the possibility of developing our own range of drinking water bottles and our investigation led us to Asia (where the majority of drinking water bottles are manufactured). We were surprised to discover that the resin identification code or recycling number imprinted on plastics (the number in the triangle), only reveals the dominant resin used in the manufacture of that plastic – and NOT all the other chemicals used to manufacture it. The manufacturer insisted that it was industry practice to add other chemicals to make bottles transparent, shatterproof, softer, colour it and so on. Fortunately, we eventually found an Australian supplier who could provide us with raw (virgin) plastic made from polyethylene. Our Safe-T-Bottle range is available in all good health food and organic eco stores throughout Australia.
Store beverages and foods in glass, pyrex, stainless steel, or ceramics (that are not glazed). My children drink from stainless steel bottles.
Important – make sure the stainless steel bottles do not have an aluminium thread in the mouthpiece and are not lined with plastic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicole Bijlsma is an accomplished Naturopath, Acupuncturist and Building Biologist who is the founder and CEO of the Australian College of Environmental Studies, and was instrumental in bringing building biology into Australia. Nicole is a popular public speaker and best-selling author on environmental health having featured on every major television network. Nicole writes a Healthy Home column for Body+Soul which is published in NewsCorp newspapers across Australia. Nicole is passionate about empowering people to create healthy homes. To find out more about Nicole and her amazing work, click HERE.