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Human BPA exposure is a growing concern among medical researchers. Where is BPA found, and what are its implications? It’s long established that Bisphenol A can leach from polycarbonate storage containers, particularly when cleaned with abrasive chemicals, strong detergents, or when containing high temperature or acidic fluids.

This is probably the most widely publicized source of BPA exposure; however, it is not the only source. There are many places this industrial chemical can touch our lives. It is pervasive. It might surprise you to learn how difficult BPA exposure is to avoid. Once you start looking around for it, BPA exposure hides in some pretty seemingly innocuous places.

BPA Exposure From Certain Kinds Of Paper

A particularly worrisome source of BPA exposure can be found in carbonless copy and thermal papers. Movie tickets, receipts, product labels, as well as airline tickets are often printed on these kinds of paper.

BPA Exposure From Recycled Paper
by pppspics under CC BY
BPA Exposure From Recycled Paper

The concern is that BPA exposure is likely to come in much higher doses because the BPA is loose, not bound in to the molecules of the paper the way it is with polycarbonate plastics. It doesn’t have to leach out into a liquid in order to expose you to BPA. All you have to do is touch it.

If your fingers are moist when you touch these kinds of paper, you can expect a ten times multiplier on your BPA exposure as compared with dry fingers.

There isn’t really a concern for BPA getting in through your skin, but a rub of your mouth, a sandwich out while shopping, or eating popcorn in a theater might be all you need to ingest a whopping dose of it. Free form BPA can easily transfer from movie ticket to hand; from hand to popcorn; from popcorn to mouth.

Furthermore, as the diagram depicts, BPA laced papers get recycled right along with other disposable materials. The pathway from discarded thermal paper to recycled paper products having potentially widespread uses is a short path indeed.

BPA Exposure From Canned Foods And Plastic Packaging

BPA is a common material used to coat the interior of cans prior to filling with processed foods or beverages. It is used to prevent the food from touching and reacting with the metal on the inside of the can, and it can help keep bacteria, invading through perforations in the metal, out of the food.

BPA Exposure From Canned Foods
BPA Exposure From Canned Foods
by stevendepolo under CC BY

A Canadian health study revealed small but measurable amounts of BPA in a preponderance of canned soft drinks tested.

The Public Health University of Texas, in a recent study (2010), found BPA in well over half of a broad spectrum of canned or otherwise packaged foods tested; both for pets and for people. Foods testing positive for promoting BPA exposure ranged from green beans to infant formula, cat foods, dog foods, even fresh turkey.

The Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP), a monthly journal published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in collaboration with other government agencies, recently released a 2011 study entitled, “Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2-Ethyhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings from a Dietary Intervention.”

Because participants reported limited use of polycarbonate water bottles, frozen prepared foods, and microwaving in plastic, their food practices suggested that canned foods and beverages and restaurant meals were the most likely sources of DEHP and BPA exposure. They concluded that DEHP and BPA exposures were substantially reduced when participants’ diets were restricted to food with limited packaging.

The report reiterated a citation from a prior study in 2008 estimating detectable levels of BPA in urine samples in over 90% of the U.S. population.

BPA Exposure From Polycarbonate Plastics

BPA Exposure From Polycarbonate Plastic Bottles

Another EHP study released in 2009 concluded that drinking from polycarbonate bottles is a significant source of BPA exposure. It found that drinking from these bottles raised bisphenol A levels measurable in the urine by two thirds.

BPA Exposure From Water Pipes

The trail of BPA exposure doesn’t end in the supermarkets or in your pantry and refrigerator. In older buildings BPA exposure, in the form of an epoxy resin used as an internal coating to extend the service life of pipes, has quietly delivered hot and cold running water, mixed with traces of BPA, to workers and residents for decades.

Is BPA Exposure Inevitable? Why Not Eliminate BPA?

Despite the controversy over human BPA exposure, there is evidence to suggest that eating food from cans treated with this epoxy resin is comparatively safer than eating food from cans without this protective coating. That narrow discussion does not, however, account for other additional sources of BPA exposure. Even assuming this ‘safer’ assertion is true, with respect to canned foods, a tough question still remains: should we be eating and drinking regularly from canned and BPA laced food packaging at all?

This question has no easy answer in the fast-paced ready-made world of today. For now it is up to the individual to decide whether BPA exposure is a risk to be avoided. Where you work, where you live, how you shop, entertain, eat and drink are all factors that can influence your potential for BPA exposure.

BPA Exposure Depends On Your Circumstances

Clearly a retail cashier who hands a receipt printed on thermal paper to every customer is at risk of higher exposure than a life guard on the beach. That is, of course, assuming the life guard doesn’t stay hydrated drinking from polycarbonate water bottles all day long. The point is that behavior and habit are important factors just as are environment and circumstance.

BPA Exposure Dosage

Dosage matters. Almost everything is toxic at high enough doses; even vitamin A. The concern in the minds of medical researchers isn’t whether BPA is toxic. It is toxic. The concern is whether BPA exposure is dangerous even in very low doses over extended periods. For now that’s still a subject of research and debate. The most simplistic conclusion one can draw is that ingesting less of it is good; more of it is bad; and a lot more of it is very bad.

BPA Exposure Can Be Minimized

Can you eliminate BPA exposure entirely? For many of us the answer is probably not. In many cases awareness, a little imagination, and a modest change in behavior can go a long way in reducing potential BPA exposure. Knowing where BPA exposure is likely can be a valuable tool in deciding for yourself and your family whether, and how, to reduce your BPA exposure.


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