What is Bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate plastic is used to make hard plastic items, such as baby bottles, re-useable water bottles, food containers, pitchers, tableware and other storage containers. You can also find polycarbonate plastic in eyeglass lenses, CDs, DVDs, computers, appliances, sports safety equipment and many other products. Although BPA is primarily used to make polycarbonate plastics, other plastic materials may also contain BPA.
BPA is also used to make epoxy resins. Epoxy resin linings coat the inside of metal products such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply pipes. The purpose of epoxy linings is to keep the can material from corroding or reacting with the food.
How are people exposed to Bisphenol A?
Small amounts of BPA may remain in polycarbonate products and epoxy linings after curing, and be released into food and beverages. Canned foods and liquids stored or heated in polycarbonate containers and epoxy-lined cans appear to be the main source of exposure to BPA.
Infants may have greater exposure to BPA than others because their diet may consist largely of infant formula from epoxy-lined cans. Infants may also be given infant formula and other liquids in polycarbonate baby bottles. Low levels of BPA have been detected in human breast milk. Infant exposure from breastfeeding is expected to be low compared to exposure from formula packaged in epoxy-lined cans and using polycarbonate baby bottles.
Bisphenol A is also present at low levels in indoor air and dust, dental sealants and other products, but exposures to BPA from these sources appear to be small compared to dietary exposures.
How can I tell if a container is polycarbonate or has an epoxy lining?
Polycarbonate bottles may be marked with the number 7 inside a triangle, sometimes followed by "PC", but may also be unmarked. If you are unsure whether a bottle is polycarbonate, you may try to contact the manufacturer (look for a consumer information phone number or website on the bottle or package).
Cans with epoxy linings (and possibly some lined cardboard and plastic food containers) are not necessarily marked. If you would like to know whether a container is epoxy-lined, you may try to contact the manufacturer (look for a consumer information phone number or website on the container).
Is exposure to Bisphenol A a health concern?
Currently, scientists and government agencies have differing opinions about whether the levels of BPA found in contents from polycarbonate containers or epoxy-lined cans may harm human health.
Some scientific studies have observed developmental effects in newborn and very young laboratory animals given small amounts of BPA. This has contributed to concern that human infants may be vulnerable to developmental effects from BPA.
Scientists have recently looked for associations between BPA exposure and health effects in the general population. Some studies have reported associations between elevated BPA exposure and health effects such as diabetes or heart disease, while other studies have not.
How can people reduce their exposure to Bisphenol A?
Low level BPA exposure occurs in the general population. We don't know how much exposure to BPA an individual may have or whether current levels of BPA exposure might be harmful to infants or others. Nevertheless, some people may wish to reduce potential BPA exposure to their infants or themselves.
For breastfeeding infants: There are known nutritional benefits of breast milk, and mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their infants. Infant BPA exposure from breastfeeding is expected to be low compared to exposure from formula. Breastfeeding women can limit the possibility of their babies' exposure to BPA by reducing their use of polycarbonate food containers and canned foods during breastfeeding, while still maintaining a healthy diet. After one day, almost all the BPA a woman consumes is excreted in her urine.
For bottle feeding infants: Full-term infants less than 2-3 months old and older premature infants may not be able to eliminate BPA from their body as quickly as children or adults and so they may have greater BPA exposures than others.
- Avoid using polycarbonate plastic baby bottles; use glass bottles instead.
- Do not put boiling or very hot formula or other liquids in plastic bottles, and do not warm plastic baby bottles in a microwave.
- Avoid liquid or powdered formula packaged in metal cans. Try to use powdered formula packaged in cardboard without epoxy liners.
For members of the general public:
- Avoid heating foods or placing hot foods in polycarbonate containers.
- Avoid the use of polycarbonate dishes and other tableware.
- Reduce the amount of food eaten from epoxy-lined cans while maintaining a healthy diet. When deciding whether to limit the use of canned food, and if so, by how much, remember there are important nutritional benefits of eating a variety of foods, whether they are fresh, frozen, dried or canned .
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