BPA In Plastics Can Raise Your Breast Cancer Risk

Exposure in the womb to chemicals common in plastics, including BPA, can increase an offspring’s risk of breast cancer, new research shows.

Scientists at the Centers for Disease Control recently reported that they found trace amounts of BPA in the urine of 93 percent of the people they studied.

What is BPA and where does it come from?

BPA is an estrogen-like compound found in plastic bottles and plastic containers.

BPA is an industrial chemical whose major use is in the production of polycarbonates and epoxy resins. Polycarbonates are used in various consumer products, including a number that come into contact with food, such as certain plastic beverage containers and baby bottles, plastic dinnerware, and plastic food storage containers. Epoxy resins are part of the protective linings used in food and beverage cans, and it is likely that canned food is the major source of human consumption of BPA (in addition to that from plastic baby bottles). The plastic beverage containers that use BPA in their manufacture are the hard colored plastic bottles with the number 7 on the bottom (as opposed to PET bottles that are clear, softer and have the number 1).

Why is BPA harmful?

it has been known since 1938 that BPA promotes excess estrogen production in rats. Estrogen, a hormone, is effective in very tiny amounts. Alarmingly, in 1993 BPA was shown to have the same effects on human breast cancer cells growing in culture. What was alarming was that the effect could be measured at concentrations as low as 2 parts per billion, not much above the levels to which we humans are routinely exposed.

Concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products were regularly reported in the news media in 2008, after several governments issued reports questioning its safety, prompting some retailers to remove products containing it from their shelves. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised further concerns regarding exposure of fetuses, infants and young children. In September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance. In the European Union and Canada, BPA use is banned in baby bottles

How does BPA cause breast cancer

BPA mimics the sex hormone estradiol (estrogen), which can trigger major changes in your body. Of 115 published animal studies, 81 percent found significant effects from even low-level exposure to BPA.

BPA mimics estrogen, plugging into hormone receptors; causing endocrine disruption. In pregnant or breastfeeding mothers and young and prepubescent children, it can have critical impacts, rewiring our developmental profiles and opening up our risks for cancers and physical and behavioral abnormalities. Lab tests suggest that chronic, low-dose exposure to bisphenol-A — like drinking out of a coated cup or polycarbonate bottle daily — may cause women to have greater chances of breast cancer and polycystic ovary syndrome, a leading cause of infertility, and men to have increased odds of prostate cancer and reduced sperm counts.

A new study finds the strongest evidence yet for the hypothesis that widespread environmental exposure to bisphenol A during fetal life causes breast cancer in adult women. The research, led by Ana M. Soto, professor of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine, in Boston, was published Dec. 6 in the online edition of Reproductive Toxicology.

Soto and her colleagues exposed pregnant rats to bisphenol A at doses ranging from 2.5 to 1,000g per kg of body weight per day. By the time the pups exposed at the lowest dose reached the equivalent of puberty (50 days old), about 25% of their mammary ducts had precancerous lesions, a proportion three to four times higher than among the nonexposed controls. Mammary ducts from all other exposure groups showed elevated levels of lesions. Cancerous lesions were found in the mammary glands of one-third of the rats exposed to 250g/kg/day.

How to lower your exposure to BPA

Although completely eliminating exposure to BPA may not be possible, there are steps you can take to reduce your family’s exposure to this chemical.

First, and perhaps most obvious: Don’t put your coffee, tea or other such hot beverages in plastic – Use ceramic mugs and glasses instead.

The amount of dangerous bisphenol A (BPA) that leaches from plastic bottles into the drinks they contain is most dependent on the liquid’s temperature, according to new research. When both new and used polycarbonate drinking bottles were exposed to boiling hot water, BPA was released 55 times more rapidly.

Scout out frozen or dried alternatives. (Frozen vegetables are often healthier than canned anyway, and are just as convenient — they just take up more freezer real estate.)

1. Avoid Canned Food

Canned food is the major source of human consumption of BPA.

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Extensive testing of canned foods has found that BPA leaches from the liner into the food itself.

Sensitive groups such as kids and pregnant women should limit canned food consumption. Beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels. Rinsing canned fruit or vegetables with water prior to heating and serving could lessen BPA ingestion.

While some companies have taken the BPA out of their cans, most still use this harmful chemical in the canning process

Consumer Reports’ latest tests of canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans, have found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods they tested contained some BPA. The canned organic foods they tested did not always have lower BPA levels than nonorganic brands of similar foods analyzed. They even found the chemical in some products in cans that were labeled “BPA-free.”

Your best bet is to either hunt down BPA free canned foods, like beans from Eden Organics, or avoid them all together.

This is especially important with more acidic foods like tomatoes. You’ll want to stick with fresh tomatoes or the sort that come in a glass jar or cardboard box.

The Soft Landing, a blog devoted to avoiding endocrine disruptors, listed several brands that use BPA-free cans for at least some of their products, including Eden Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Native Forest.

2. Avoid Canned Sodas

BPA has been found in many varieties of canned soda.

A Canadian study has found significant levels of the controversial chemical BPA in energy drink and soda cans.

As reported by the Toronto Globe and Mail, bisphenol-A was found in at least 96 percent of the sodas it tested, including ginger ales, diet colas, root beers and citrus-flavored drinks. The highest levels, however, were found in energy drinks. Soft-drink cans are treated with a BPA-containing liner to prevent drinks from coming into contact with metal.

This is a pretty easy issue to address! Soda isn’t the healthiest option to begin with. Sticking with water and tea is better for your body beyond the BPA.

Certain plastics called polycarbonates leach low levels of BPA into food or liquids. Leaching from plastic baby bottles and food containers appears to happen at a much lower level than found in canned foods and baby formula. Nevertheless it is good to take simple precautions.

BPA is found in polycarbonate plastic food containers often marked on the bottom with the letters “PC” recycling label #7. Not all #7 labeled products are polycarbonate but this is a reasonable guideline for a category of plastics to avoid.

In general, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.

Polycarbonate plastics are rigid and transparent and used for sippy cups, baby bottles, food storage, and water bottles. Some polycarbonate water bottles are marketed as ‘non-leaching’ for minimizing plastic taste or odor, however there is still a possibility that trace amounts of BPA will migrate from these containers, particularly if used to heat liquids.

Avoid the use of plastic containers to heat food in microwaves. Ceramic, glass, and other microwaveable dishware are good alternatives.

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