If you regularly eat canned foods, then you’re most likely getting a daily dose of BPA. Many common processed foods contain trace residues of the chemical Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. Bisphenol A is an industrial organic chemical, with the formula: (CH3)2C(C6H5OH)2.
Bisphenol A is widely used in the resin that lines the majority of food cans — to keep the contents from direct contact with metal. BPA is also found in polycarbonate plastic bottles, including water bottles and baby bottles, as well as plastic food storage containers, particularly those used for microwavable food. Traces of Bisphenol A are also found in the dental sealants used to coat the surfaces of children’s teeth.
A new study by Gregory Noonan, Luke Ackerman and Timothy Begley of the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition focused on the foods that are most widely consumed from cans, including peas, green beans, chili, pasta, tuna, sardines, and pork and beans. They found BPA residues in 90% of the canned foods they tested.
The lowest residues of BPA were found in peas (2.6 parts per billion), whereas higher residues (10 -80 parts per billion) were found for pork and beans, as well as chili. Canned tuna levels range from 5 to 17 ppb. Higher concentrations of BPA in food contents may be correlated with the more acidic, tomato-based foods, such as chili or tomato-based sauces in pork and beans.
Some companies, such as Healthy Choice, Hunt’s and Heinz have pledged to use BPA-free can linings, for at least some of their products.
The European Union voted in 2010 to ban BPA in baby bottles, while the U.S. Congress failed to approve such a ban. Many water bottles are now labeled “BPA-free. How do you know which plastics contain BPA? Plastics marked with recycling codes 3 and 7 are most likely to contain BPA, while those marked with codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are unlikely to contain BPA.
Bisphenol A has been around for a while. The chemical was first synthesized in the laboratory in 1891; it was used as a synthetic estrogen in the 1930s. Some of the health effects correlated with BPA include early onset puberty in females, cancer in laboratory animals, and increased incidence of obesity, as well as behavioral issues, such as attention deficit disorder. Note that a clear cause and effect has not yet been established for many of these health issues, yet it is worrisome, and worthy of more research.
How concerned should we be about health risks posed by BPA? The National Institute of Environmental Health Services clarified the level of threat posed by Bisphenol A, concluding that they have “some concern for effects of the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures,” yet only minimal concern for early onset of puberty, and negligible concern for birth defects or reduced birth weight.
For more extensive information about heatlh concerns for Bisphenol A, see this extensive website, sponsored by the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, with links to recent scientific studies.