Saturday, March 08, 2014

eco-lent: week 1, day 3, research

If you missed my earlier posts this week, I'm doing a lenten practice where I take on an eco-challenge each week from a workbook by the Northwest Earth Institute called "A World of Health: Connecting People, Place & Planet." This week's eco-challenge is to eat as BPA-free as possible. I'm finding out this is easier said than done!

Yesterday I wondered about products from Annie's and Stoneyfield, wondering whether these companies that emphasize organic, non-GMO and hormone-free ingredients were silently killing us with plastic, but I received word back from my comments to these companies that there is NO BPA IN THEIR CONTAINERS. Woo-hoo!

At this point, my questions about this challenge center around two areas: what kinds of plastics contain BPA, and what's the big deal--what does it do to us? Today I'll focus on the first of these questions--what has BPA, anyway? What is it that we should be avoiding? Perhaps if I was telling this story systematically I would do the questions the other way around, but I don't care, this is what stood out to me today.

I wish I had time to do more in-depth research, but from my quick perusal of the web and thanks to my good friend Becky, I found a website called the Environmental Working Group, which has all sorts of useful information, and some other websites and data on BPA. The Environmental Working Group has a helpful article entitled "Tips to avoid BPA exposure." Here are some of the highlights from that article and elsewhere:
  • Plastics to avoid: hard plastics #3, #6, #7 and "PC." (Only 7 & PC have BPA, but the others have DEHP or Polystyrene, which are other endocrine disruptors, which I'll research and explain tomorrow or soon.)
  • Plastics without BPA (or other harmful additives): #1, #2, #4, #5.
  • As probably most of us who have kids know, it's really bad to feed your babies from bottles with BPA. If you feed them liquid formula, a lot of BPA gets into the formula, too, from the cans, although powders don't have this problem.
  • The big issue for adults is that metal cans are lined with plastic/epoxy that contains BPA, which means that most of the time when we're eating canned foods, we're ingesting BPA. This goes for metal water bottles and coffee cups, too, unless they're stainless steel.
  • It's especially bad to heat plastics with BPA and then eat/drink the contents. (Even the better plastics shouldn't be heated because it releases chemicals that don't generally leach otherwise.)
  • Also bad is eating/drinking from plastics that are scratched.
  • Off-brand plastic wrap and sandwich bags seem to be dangerous sometimes as well. The following video says Glad cling wrap is OK, as are Ziplock bags and Saran Wrap, and what you want to look for on these is "PVC-free."

Still reading? Awesome! Because that was all the good news.

The bad news? It's likely that no plastic is really safe to eat or drink from. Ugh. The main problem with BPA is that it's a "hormone disruptor," or they have chemicals that mimic "estrogenic activity." More on that tomorrow/soon. The kicker: these are found in food that has been in all kinds of plastic, regardless of whether it has BPA in it. Other chemicals that are used to make plastic have these estrogen mimickers in them, too, they're just not BPA so no one is concerned because BPA is the one that has the most research against it.

Tomorrow's job? Go through my kitchen and look for plastics 3, 6, 7 and PC and recycle them.

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