what the heck is BPA?

what the heck is BPA?

So I’ve heard about the chemical BPA, those scary three letters in the news and in random conversations, but I never really got the details on it. Most of you have probably never heard of it or don’t really care about it, but I want to know… Does it cause cancer? Does it make you grow man-boobs? What is wrong with it?

Wanna hear something scary?

The 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2,517 urine samples from people six years and older.

BPA stands for bisphenol-a, and it is a chemical most often found in plastic cups/bottles and aluminum cans. Studies have apparently linked it to low birth weight, asthma, male sexual dysfunction, and now possibly factors for obesity. This chemical inspired me to switch over to a glass water bottle, which I found at Lululemon.

Anyway, along my journey to learn about BPA, I found a study that’s a little unsettling. Based in Shanghai, China, this study looked at 1,326 school-aged children. They measured the level of BPA in each child’s urine, finding that the girls aged 9 to 12 years old with higher levels of BPA had double the risk of obesity. Moreover, a correlation was found in these girls that the higher the BPA level, the higher the obesity risk.

A bizarre finding: the BPA correlation only applied to the girls (not boys) aged 9 to 12 years old. This is probably due to the sensitivity of the female body, especially at that young age. Having a stressful week? Not eating enough healthy foods? You very well could throw off your menstrual cycle. Now imagine an artificial chemical coursing through your body, wouldn’t it make sense that your system would get a little screwy?!

Back to the girls. BPA disrupts the endocrine system and emulates estrogen, an important hormone for the girl-who’s-not-yet-a-woman. Having too much BPA in a young girl’s system can falsely pump up her estrogen levels, causing weight gain and possibly premature puberty. This is unfortunate for a growing young woman.

My personal opinion is that the study could be built out by finding out exactly what the girls normally ingest and how prevalent those plastic bottles and aluminum cans are in their daily diet. Very often the things that help accelerate obesity, such as junk food, sodas, candies, etc., are served up in the least natural of vessels, like plastic bags and pop-top cans. So is it the combination of unhealthy foods and BPA-laden containers that’s contributing to the obesity factor? Can BPA truly be an isolated factor?

Bottom line, I’d stay away from any potential BPA exposure. The National Institute of Environmental Health Services has some good background on BPA, and they report that most BPA is ingested via food and drink. They also say the temperature of the food or liquid could be a factor, such as pouring hot tea into a plastic water bottle or microwaving leftovers in the plastic takeout container.

I’ve been trying to go as natural as I can when it comes to my lifestyle, and I admit, it’s difficult. It’s so easy to just grab a pre-packaged snack and run out the door, and I have minimal patience when it comes to making my own trail mix or washing and prepping fruit. But knowing that the little extra effort might help keep chemicals out of my body? That’s motivation for me!

photo credit: FYI Living