BPA and Phthalates Be Gone!
Author: Kaylee Dunbar Date Posted:29 March 2016
Plastics are heavily utilised in today’s society to manufacture various products that we all choose to use on a daily basis. However, are you aware that the chemical compounds BPA and Phthalates used in the manufacturing process of plastics may actually be harmful to your health? Let’s take a look at some of the chemicals used, what potential dangers they may impose and look at ways that you can minimise your exposure.
BPA (Bisphenol A):
BPA is one of the most popular chemicals used worldwide to harden clear plastics and to make plastic coatings. BPA is commonly used in the manufacturing process of cigarette filters, food packaging, plastic food storage containers, medical devices, food cans, reusable water bottles and toys.
Phthalates are a family of chemicals that are added to plastics to soften them and to make them harder to break. They are commonly used in household furnishings, building materials, electronics, insecticides, children’s toys, skin care products, cosmetics, perfumes and in food packaging.
So what’s the issue with these chemicals?
BPA and Phthalates have shown to have the ability to mimic the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen is a sex hormone that is involved in the development of female sexual characteristics and the reproductive process. These chemicals interfere with the body’s natural hormone production which is concerning for growing children, people who are trying to conceive or who are already pregnant and in those who have disease states that are hormone dependent.
How are we exposed to these chemicals?
BPA and Phthalates have been shown to leech from plastic food containers and plastic food wraps when they become heated. We all know that heating our foods in a microwave is convenient and quick, but with the information that you now know you may wish to reconsider this! It is also important to note that plastic food containers that have been cleaned in a dishwasher prior to the heating process have also been shown to leach BPA and Phthalates, so you may wish to avoid using plastic containers to heat up your food or stop using them all together!
Researchers have now also begun to explore various professions who they feel may have a high risk of BPA exposure. Interestingly enough it is thought that cashier’s who handle thermal receipts on a daily basis are at high risk. Phthalates exposure can also occur from the use of skin care products and perfumes because they are used as a lubricating agent to help these products penetrate the skin and to allow the fragrances smell to last longer.
BPA and Phthalates have presented in human serum, urine, amniotic fluid, follicular fluid, placenta tissue and umbilical cord blood, which provides evidence that these chemicals have the ability to leach from other sources into the body.
So what is being done about the use of these chemicals?
Due to these concerning health affects, in 2010 the Australian Government decided to take matters into their own hands and phase out the resale of plastic baby bottles containing BPA. In 2012 this movement was also taken up by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services who banned the use of BPA in both baby bottles and children’s cups. In Australia, the Phthalate called DEHP has been banned above a prescribed level due to recent research identifying its negative health impacts.
How can you limit your exposure?
- Use a stainless steel or glass water bottle instead of plastic.
- If plastics have to be used make sure that they specify that they are BPA free.
- Use re-usable grocery bags instead of plastic or paper bags.
- Stop buying foods that are pre packaged in plastics.
- Switch plastic storage containers for glass or stainless steel.
- Try to not use plastic wraps or cling wrap to cover your food.
- Use glass or metal cookware and silver wear instead of plastics.
- Reduce use of canned food and drink as they are frequently lined with BPA.
- Use Natural Skincare products and cosmetics.
- Try using essential oils instead of commercial perfumes.
If plastics cannot be avoided then check the recycling numbers on your plastic containers or water bottles. Recycling numbers range from numbers 1-7 and are located in a triangle figure normally on the bottom of plastic bottles and containers. You should only use plastics that contain the recycling numbers:
- 2 (for High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) commonly found in milk bottles and shampoo bottles),
- 4 (for Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) commonly found in garbage bags and bins)
- 5 (for Polypropylene (PP) commonly found in ice cream container’s, lunch boxes and take away food container’s).