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Is BPA Really That Bad?

Hansa Bhargava, MD - Blogs
By Hansa D. Bhargava, MDBoard-certified pediatricianOctober 4, 2018
From the WebMD Archives

A mom told me the other day that she was very concerned about her son’s past exposure to BPA. Before she knew it could be a carcinogen or endocrine disruptor, she had stored breast milk in plastic bottles in the freezer, and also washed those same bottles in the dishwasher on high heat. Some studies have shown that BPA seeps thru plastic containers and epoxy resins into food and drinks. Her son was now 8 years old, but she was worried about the damage it could have done.

The debate about potentially toxic effects from BPA has been raging for more than decade. CLARITY-BPA, a program initiated by government agencies including the FDA and National Institutes of Health, sought to find out if BPA could cause harmful effects. One catalyst for this was the fact that 93% of Americans older than 6 have detectable levels of BPA in their urine. The concern is whether it can cause problems in the brain and heart, cause cancer and impact behavior of young children. Because BPA acts like estrogen, researchers have said it could have an impact on puberty. The list goes on.

Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus despite all the research that has been done. And around the world, other countries have reacted differently as well. Europe, for example, has set a dose limit of what an acceptable limit of BPA is; Canada has committed to reducing levels as much as possible in manufacturing.

So where does this leave us, in our day to day lives?

As a pediatrician, I can tell you that any substance’s impact on the body, whether it’s a medication, a chemical, pesticide or a toxin, is related to your weight. While BPA’s effects may not cause harm in a full-grown adult, it may be magnified in infants or children. In children, their brains and bodies are still developing, and that makes any questionable substance a potentially serious issue.

So, what can we do? While the jury is still out on whether BPA is toxic, we can play it safe. Here’s what I do as a mom:

  • Use glass containers — storing foods in plastic in the fridge or freezer may cause BPA and other toxins to seep into the food.
  • Don’t put plastic water bottles in the freezer or dishwasher. Also, don’t leave them in the car if it’s hot outside. If possible use metal water bottles instead.
  • Stay away from microwaveable dinners. They are OK once in a while, just not every day. On occasions when we do eat them, I put the food on a plate to avoid heating it in plastic.
  • Try not to serve packaged lunches such as frozen nuggets. They not only sit in plastic for a while, but may have more chemicals added in the manufacturing process. Also, some canned goods may contain BPA.
  • Use paper or foil to wrap lunches and sandwiches instead of plastic baggies. It’s better for the environment and less plastic in your child’s food.

While we wait for experts to reach a consensus on the possible harms of BPA, taking these steps won’t hugely disrupt your life or budget, and may ultimately protect you.

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About the Author
Hansa D. Bhargava, MD

Hansa Bhargava, MD, is a medical editor and WebMD's expert pediatrician. She oversees the team of medical experts responsible for ensuring the accuracy and credibility of the pediatric content on the site.

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