We're not as safe as we thought.
For years, I've warned my readers about the dangers of a chemical called bisphenol A or "BPA." BPA is found in certain plastics, receipts, and newspapers.
Scientists have linked BPA to prostate and breast cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Even low doses of BPA can wreak havoc on your hormones.
As more research showed the dangers of this chemical, I told subscribers to look for BPA-free materials.
Then in 2013, we heard that many BPA-free items still contain bisphenol S ("BPS"), which is probably just as dangerous. But the evidence wasn't concrete.
Now it is.
A new study from the journal Endocrinology showed that BPS triggers the production of fat. In other words, BPS messes with our body's hormones similarly to BPA.
An earlier study this year in the same journal also showed BPS speeding up the development of fetuses. BPS also altered hormones in the reproductive system.
Worse, BPA – and most likely BPS – is already in us. Researchers found that 90%-95% of us have BPA in our bodies and our urine. And they haven't even started testing for BPS yet...
So knowing what we do about BPA and having concerns about BPS as well, what can we do to protect ourselves? There are five simple precautions that will help...
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Five Ways to Avoid BPA and BPS
No. 1: Ditch the convenient coffee.
Many workplaces and homes now have the convenient single-use disposable plastic Keurig-brand coffee cups. The FDA approved these pods as "BPA free." However, the company will not disclose the types of plastic in the pods, only saying they are "Class 7" plastic.
The problem is that Class 7 plastic is a general catch-all designation that means "other." However, a lot of Class 7 plastic is made from polycarbonate, which can contain BPA. The pods may not contain polycarbonate, but there is no way to know if they contain something similar. And since plastics can "leach" chemicals similar to BPA – like BPS – when they are heated, it seems a bit risky to use an unknown plastic container to brew steaming hot coffee.
Do what I do and ditch the K-cups. I personally use a small glass French press to make my coffee.
No. 2: Avoid plastic bottles.
Plastic water bottles and even reusable plastic thermos containers can also leach chemicals into your beverage. Think about leaving a plastic bottle in a hot car. If you've tasted the water afterward, you'll notice the distinctly chemical flavor.
But you might not even taste the chemicals. That's why checking your container is the safest bet.
In the past, we've recommended bottles marked 2, 4, or 5 as these types of plastic don't have any BPA. But we need more research to determine if these bottle types also contain BPS.
So we recommend switching. Use glass cups when you can. And for convenience, we like stainless-steel bottles. Klean Kanteen is a leading manufacturer of stainless-steel bottles, and several of my co-workers use them.
No. 3: Buy fresh.
Surprisingly, one of the places you'll find most BPA is in the lining of canned goods. Campbell's soup and Del Monte green beans tend to have some of the highest levels. But most mainstream brands contain the stuff.
Recently, Campbell's announced it would go BPA free by mid-2017... but that doesn't mean BPS free.
Do what I do... Choose fresh foods over canned. You'll get plenty of nutrients without the worry.
No. 4: Say "no thanks."
Newspapers and receipts carry high levels of BPA. The problem is that BPA coats the paper used during the thermal-printing process.
Even worse, don't combine these things with hand sanitizer.
A study by the University of Missouri saw that people who used hand sanitizer and then handled a paper receipt for just 45 seconds saw jumps in the level of BPA in their blood and urine samples. Hand sanitizer has chemicals that allow the alcohol to penetrate your skin... And those same chemicals also allow BPA to pass through easily. Those who didn't use sanitizer had higher levels, but only about 1% of what the sanitizer users saw.
So do what I do – don't ask for a receipt if you don't absolutely need it. Use your bank or credit-card statements to back up your purchases. If you're worried about having to return an item, some retailers will e-mail you a receipt. And if you do get a receipt or read a newspaper, wash your hands with soap and water afterward.
No. 5: Use glass in the microwave and dishwasher.
One of the best ways to avoid these harmful chemicals is to avoid plastic that's been heated. When plastic is heated, it releases chemicals – including BPA and BPS – into the food or liquid inside.
So avoid microwaving anything in plastic. Use glass or ceramic plates and bowls. And remember to hand-wash plastic, particularly if it does not say "dishwasher safe" or if it is old or worn. The steam from the washer can also heat the plastic and cause it to leach chemicals.
Finally, remember that if something says "BPA free," it probably contains BPS. So try to avoid plastics as much as possible. Opting for glass bottles and leftover containers, switching to steel drinking bottles, and avoiding receipts will cut your exposure.
What We're Reading...
- Scientific American covers one of the earlier BPS studies.
- Something different: You can rent everything from designer dresses to fancy cars... and now you can even rent chickens.