What does BPA-free mean? Research on a consumer labeling program has a peculiar result.

Author:Kenny, Jack
Position:FRONT Row

The packaging industry is quite familiar with the chemical known as BPA. My fellow columnist, Calvin Frost, has dutifully brought issues surrounding this ubiquitous and questionable compound to our attention in his Letters from the Earth. The consuming public is increasingly aware of bisphenol-A as well, the result of reporting by the general media. Efforts are under way among various manufacturers to replace BPA because its potential effects on human health are many and major. It turns out, though, that the replacements aren't exacdy question-free.

BPA is used in plastic bottles and containers to strengthen the plastic. It is a component in the plastic epoxy lining of food and beverage cans--for soda, beer, tomatoes, tuna, soup, beans and just about every other food--for the purpose of preventing the contents from reacting with the metal. It's also part of many other items with which we come into contact, such as dental fillings, medical and dental devices, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, household electronics, sports equipment and cash register receipts.

The chemical has been associated with a range of human ailments, including cancer, diabetes, irregular brain development in children, and reproductive issues. In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use in baby bottles and sippy cups, and later added infant formula containers to the list.

According to medicalnewstoday.com, bisphenol-A "can behave in a similar way to estrogen and other hormones in the human body." The report says that BPA "is an endocrine disruptor--a substance which interferes with the production, secretion, transport, action, function and elimination of natural hormones. BPA can imitate our body's own hormones in a way that could be hazardous for health. Babies and young children are said to be especially sensitive to the effects of BPA." The article goes on to list the possible health effects, just about everything nobody wants to have: heart disease, effects on memory and learning, breast cancer, asthma, male impotence and a host of other reproductive undesirables.

In February of 2014, a group of FDA scientists published a study finding that low-level exposure to BPA is safe. This was met with nods of satisfaction by the chemical industry, FDA officials and the media. According to Mother Jones, others at the FDA learned that the lab where the research took place was contaminated, affecting the test results. Work continues in the science community...

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