You may be exposed to a chemical called BPA every day, but you may not know what it is, what it does, and how it affects your health. This article will introduce you to the basic knowledge of BPA, including its sources, uses, harms, and prevention measures.
What is BPA?
BPA is a synthetic substance that is used to make certain types of plastics and resins, which can enhance the hardness, transparency, and durability of plastics. BPA is most commonly used in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, which are widely used in food and beverage packaging and storage, as well as other industrial and consumer products .
What are the harms of BPA?
The problem with BPA is that it can leach out of plastics and resins and enter our bodies. BPA is considered to be an endocrine disruptor, which means that it can mimic or interfere with our hormones, causing our body functions to be disrupted. BPA mainly affects estrogen, which can bind to estrogen receptors and change our growth, development, metabolism, immunity, and reproduction .
The specific effects of BPA on human health have not been fully determined, and different studies may have different conclusions. However, some studies have found that BPA may increase the following risks:
- Reproductive system: BPA may reduce the fertility of men and women, affect the quality and quantity of sperm and eggs, increase the possibility of miscarriage and preterm birth, cause abnormal sexual development and dysfunction, etc.
- Developmental system: BPA may affect the development of the brain and nervous system of fetuses, infants, and children, causing low birth weight, low intelligence, learning difficulties, behavioral problems, emotional disorders, etc.
- Endocrine system: BPA may affect the synthesis and secretion of thyroid hormones, causing hypothyroidism, goiter, thyroiditis, and thyroid cancer, etc.
- Cardiovascular system: BPA may affect the regulation of blood pressure and blood sugar, causing hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes, etc.
- Immune system: BPA may affect the activity of immune cells, causing immune deficiency, allergic reactions, and autoimmune diseases, etc.
- Tumor system: BPA may affect the proliferation and apoptosis of cells, causing breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, and testicular cancer, etc.
How to prevent the harms of BPA?
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers that the trace amount of BPA in food is safe, if you want to avoid the potential harms of BPA, you can take the following measures to reduce the chances of exposure to BPA:
- Choose products that do not contain BPA. You can buy products that are labeled as “BPA-free” or “BPA free”, or use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers instead of plastic containers. You can also avoid using plastic products that are marked with recycling codes “3” or “7” or the letter “PC”, because they may contain BPA or other harmful chemicals.
- Avoid high temperatures. You should not put plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher, because high temperatures will accelerate the release of BPA. You should also avoid putting hot food or liquid in plastic containers, or rinse the containers with cold water before use.
- Eat more fresh and natural food. You should try to reduce the consumption of packaged food and canned food, because they may contain BPA or other harmful chemicals. You should eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, or choose food that is packaged in glass or paper products.