BPA is shorthand for Bisphenol A, a chemical used mainly in the production of epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastics. These are used widely in the manufacture of containers and vessels for storing food and drink, so there are concerns that a key chemical used in their production could be a health risk.
What food and drink packaging may apply?
Polycarbonate plastics, which are virtually shatter proof, have many applications including the manufacture of plastic bottles such as those used for babies and water. Epoxy resins are in widespread use as lacquers for coating metal products such as bottle tops, water pipes and food cans along with some dental products.
So plastic water bottles are one obvious way BPA can get into the water. It gets in by ‘leaching’ into water from the epoxy resin sometimes used to coat the inside of the bottle. To what extent it contaminates the water itself is more likely to be down to the temperature of the liquid or the bottle rather than its age.
Is there a need to be concerned?
Some studies have shown that BPA in large enough quantities can affect brain function amongst mostly young children and infants. The exposure to humans is widespread simply because it’s so widely used in food and drink containers.
- The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sought to reassure the public by saying that BPA largely occurs at very low levels and is safe enough at this rate. There again, in 2012 they decided to ban the use of polycarbonate resins in baby bottles and ‘sippy cups,’ the spill proof plastic beakers designed to train toddlers to drink properly from cups. This coupled with the manufacture of more BPA-free products indicates that there is a definite policy towards greatly reducing the use of this chemical. As of 2014, twelve US states have banned BPA use in the manufacture of children’s bottles.
- Since 2011, the EU have banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have reviewed scientific information about BPA at periodic intervals and so far say it considers present levels of the chemical safe, but stress they are committed to ongoing research.
- A 2010 article in TIME magazine claimed that a study by the CDC, the leading public health institute in the United States of America, found some 93% of the Americans taking part over the age of 6 had some traces of BPA in their bodies.
- A scientist at the UK Food Standard Agency (FSA), commenting an American study into BPA, said that it wasn’t really a health concern due to the chemical being rapidly absorbed, detoxified and expelled from the body — a stance reaffirmed by the FSA in general.
What’s the best way to reduce exposure to BPA in water?
Look out for bottles and other water and food containers labelled as BPA-free. If you’re not sure which manufacturers of bottled water, water bottles, drink containers or other food containers don’t use BPA in packaging, their respective websites may give more information. Any respectable water cooler dispenser companies will always use BPA free packaging.
Concerning home drinking water: while efforts have been made to eliminate, or at least reduce, the amount of BPA in the water bear in mind your water pipes may have been lined with an epoxy resin containing BPA.
The way forward?
It’s worth noting that BPA is present in many other applications. For example, it’s used in the manufacture of thermal receipts of the type supplied in shops and on some types of ticket. Handling BPA-containing items like this expose oneself to the chemical through skin absorption.
More and more manufacturers are stopping the use if BPA. In recent years the leading six American plastic bottle manufacturers ceased using it in manufacture — so overall it’s right to be careful.