In April 2022, the Environmental Defense Fund sent a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking them to again consider removing BPA (bisphenol A) from can liners, plastic bottles and anything else that comes in contact with, and can leach into, foods and beverages. They quoted extensive research showing how harmful BPA may really be and stated that there is no longer a reasonable certainty of safety. BPA is a chemical that has been used to make certain plastics used for can liners and other packaging of foods and drinks since 1950, that can potentially harm you (J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol, 2011 Oct;127(1-2):27-34). BPA has been associated with increased risk for heart attacks, certain cancers, infertility, high blood pressure, and diabetes (J Clin Endocrinol Metab, Dec 2011;96(12):3822-6). The Environmental Defense Fund is a coalition of physicians, scientists and public health and environmental organizations interested in protecting health.
In 2008, the FDA claimed that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods and so far, the FDA has not issued general regulations to restrict BPAs in materials that package foods. In 2012, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and infant formulas. Many manufacturers of plastic food packaging products do not use BPA, but today more than 10 percent of canned foods still contain BPA. I expect BPA to be banned in all food packaging since the FDA is required by law to make a final decision about banning BPA in plastics, metal can coatings, and other materials that contact food by October 31, 2022.
BPA and Other Plastics Used in Cans and Packaging
All cans contain plastic liners to prevent the metals in cans from leaching into the stored foods. Manufacturers of cans used for food put BPA into plastics to make them clear and strong. Many other bisphenols (called BPA replacements) are chemically similar to BPA. These plastics are also in all plastic bottles, particularly water bottles. Any plastic water bottles you drink from may contain BPA. Realize that North Americans consistently have BPA in their organs (Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol, 2019;125(S3):14-31) and 92.6 percent of North Americans have traces of BPA in their urine. Canned foods are felt to be one of the main sources of BPA, adding up to 6.6 micrograms per person per day of BPA (Environmental Health Perspectives, Jan 1, 2008).
Why BPA May Not Be Safe
BPAs are broken down by your liver into structures that can stimulate hormone receptors in your body (Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol, 2019;125(S3):14-31). BPAs can stimulate estrogen receptors to cause changes in cell proliferation that lead to cancer development and progression (Medicine (Baltimore), Jan 2015;94(1):e211). BPAs have been shown to adversely affects brain development in mice (Environ Res, 2008;108(2):150-157). Elevated blood levels of BPA are associated with increased risk for obesity, multiple miscarriages, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and endometrial hyperplasia (Int J Endocrinol, Apr 10, 2019;4068717). Many products labeled “BPA free” still contain bisphenol S (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2015;123(7):643-650), which may have the same endocrine-disrupting effects as BPA (Nutrients, 2020 Feb 19;12(2):532).
Because of the known concerns about BPA, many can manufacturers are making liners from acrylic, polyester, non-BPA epoxies, or olefin polymers. Most of these liners have not been evaluated for safety. Some can manufacturers are using PVC, a known carcinogen.
• Limit processed foods that use plastics in their packaging, since BPA is still being found in plastic wrappers, cans, jars, bottles and lids (Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management, March 31, 2022). Buy fresh or frozen foods instead. Frozen foods are usually frozen before they are packaged, and frozen food packaging is generally made of safer plastics.
• Never heat food in its plastic packaging. Heating releases large amounts of BPA (Journal of Health Science, August 2002;48(4)).
• Use glass, porcelain or stainless-steel storage containers instead of those made from plastics.
• Do not put plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher. A report from the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents not to put plastic storage containers, sippy cups or other plastic products in the dishwasher or microwave because chemicals leached out by the heat can contaminate food that is placed in the container later (Pediatrics, August 2018).
• Try to replace canned foods with foods packaged in glass jars.
• If you carry a refillable water bottle during exercise, replace your plastic bottle with one made of stainless steel. Avoid water or other beverages in plastic bottles. Glass is best, but breaks easily. Next best is stainless steel because it does not leach metals into plain water, tea, coffee or milk, but can leach chromium and nickel into beverages with high acidity such as fruit juices (Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Aug 1994;53:259–266).
• If you often use a particular type of canned food, look for a brand that is labeled BPA-free. If it is not labeled, send a letter to the canned food manufacturer to ask whether it still uses BPA.
•If you are buying or using other plastics in your food supply, look for those that are labeled BPA-free. Manufacturers are creating more and more BPA-free products. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that some, but not all, plastics marked with recycle code 3 or 7 may contain BPA.