For Those Over 40, Higher Levels of BPA in Urine Linked To Obesity

For those over 40 years of age (including this author), a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found higher levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in urine are associated with obesity, abdominal fat and insulin resistance. The study looked at 3,390 Chinese adults over the age of 40, and concluded that BPA was positively associated with generalized obesity, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance in middle-aged and elderly Chinese adults.

If you need some background on what is BPA, I’ve got a FAQ on it.

The study is consistent with other epidemiological studies which have shown links between BPA and metabolic disorders.  Because virtually all American adults have BPA in their bodies, this study suggests that BPA may pose a significant health risk. 

BPA is used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, so food and drink stored in polycarbonate plastic can result in exposure (think of those 5 gallon water bottles).   BPA is also used in the manufacture of epoxy resin linings for virtually all canned food and drink in the US – so to avoid BPA, skip canned foods. Think fresh, frozen, dried or jarred in glass over canned.  At least one study confirmed that you can reduce BPA dramatically by eliminating canned foods.  BPA is also used in the manufacture of certain thermal receipts, and can be absorbed through the skin.

Just one more reason to avoid BPA.

New Study Shows Eliminating Canned Foods & Plastic Food Packaging From Diet Significantly Reduces BPA Levels

A peer reviewed study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives provides evidence that eliminating canned foods and plastic food packaging from your diet can dramatically reduce the concentrations of bisphenol A (BPA) and DEHP metabolites in your urine. And what it really means that if you are concerned about exposure to BPA and DEHP, you can do something about it. The study was conducted by scientists at the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute.

BPA is used in virtually all canned food and beverage linings and is also the basic monomer of polycarbonate plastic, which is used for food and beverage storage. If you want more information on BPA, you can check out my post on the basics of BPA. BPA is associated with endocrine disruption in animals and in some human studies. Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an update on BPA in which it agreed with the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health that there is “some concern” about the potenetial effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children. Many scientists and researchers, however, are much less reserved when it comes to the safety of BPA, particularly for infants and fetuses, and urge complete avoidance of BPA in food and food contact items.

DEHP is a phthalate commonly used to soften PVC plastic. It can be found in some plastic packaging used for food. It is also linked to endocrine disruption.

The study involved 5 families, with a total of 20 participants. In the study, over a 3 day period, the families ate food that was prepared and stored with minimal canned foods or plastic food packaging. During the three day period of minimal canned food and plastic packaging a caterer prepared and delivered food, avoiding foods packaged in plastic and canned foods. Urine samples were collected before (on days 1 and 2), during (on days 4 and 5), and after this “fresh food” diet. After the “fresh food” diet, the families returned to their normal diet, and urine samples were collected on days 7 and 8.

The urine samples were analyzed for BPA and 7 chemicals that assess for exposure to 5 different phthalates – DEHP (used in some food packaging), DEP, DBP, BBP and DMP.

The study results showed that while the families were eating the “fresh food” diet, their BPA levels dropped on average by more than 60%. For the three metabolites that were used to measured exposure to the phthalate DEHP, all 3 dropped by more than 50% during the “fresh food” diet. When the participants returned to their regular diets, BPA levels increased to approximately the pre-intervention levels.

So, what does this mean for you? That you can reduce your exposure significantly to BPA and DEHP by making dietary adjustments:

  • Choose fresh, frozen, dried or glass jarred over canned foods.  Canned foods and beverages are a major source of BPA exposure for most people. As the study demonstrates, by eliminating canned foods you can significantly reduce your BPA exposure. There are some BPA free canned goods out there, such as Eden Foods canned beans.
  • Choose baby bootles, sippy cups and other food storage and serving pieces that are not made of polycarbonate plastic.
  • Choose soups, milk and soy milk packaged in cardboard “brick” carton or glass.
  • Skip water from those 5 gallon polycarbonate plastic bottles.
  • Skip certain plastic wraps which can be PVC. Plastic wrap was first made of PVC. And, PVC remains the most common in food wraps used in catering and other commercial applications. However, many of the leading plastic wraps used in the home have switched to a PVC-free wrap, including Saran Premium, Glad Cling Wrap and Handi Wrap. They are made of low density polyethylene.
  • If you buy soft cheeses and other products wrapped in a plastic wrap, remove the wrapping when you get home and store in glass or similar plastic free storage.

The complete study, entitled “Food Packaging and Bisphenol A and Bis(2-ethylhexyl) Phthalate Exposure: Findings from a Dietary Intervention” by Ruthann R. Rudel, Janet M. Gray, Connie L. Engel, Teresa W. Rawsthorne, Robin E. Dodson, Janet M. Ackerman, Jeanne Rizzo, Janet L. Nudelman, and Julia Green Brody is available online.

The Smart Mama on CBS’ The Talk

So, accordingy to my sister, I finally made it. I appeared on CBS’ The Talk on January 4, 2011. Woot!

I was so excited to be asked to give some tips for going non toxic at home on CBS’ The Talk. I had the pleasure of being on camera with fellow green mama Sara Gilbert, the amazing Julie Chen, and the tireless and formidable advocate Holly Robinson Peete. So check it out my segment on Tips for a Non Toxic Home (okay, and I’m having a fabulous hair day)

I also got to talk briefly off camera to Sharon Osbourne about, of all things, the presence of hormone disrupting phthalates in conventional air fresheners. 

Just ahead of my segment was Dr. Jay Gordon. He talked broadly about the potentially toxic chemical soup facing children today. I urge you to check out his segment on Poisons and Your Kids too.

Bisphenol A (BPA) Found In Virtually All Canned Foods

FDA Changes Course – Now Believes Bisphenol A (BPA) Poses Safety Concern

Well, after years of contending that bisphenol A (BPA) is perfectly safe, the Food and Drug Administration has reversed course. On Friday, the FDA announced that it now considers BPA to be of some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostrate glands of fetuses, infants and young children (consistent with the National Toxicology Program’s findings). 

But, even though the FDA now has some concern about BPA’s safety, it claims it can’t do anything. The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that top FDA officials say that while BPA’s safety is uncertain, they are powerless to regulate it. Why? Because it is listed among some 3,000 chemicals that are “generally regarded as safe” and that designation exempts those chemicals from scrutiny.

As the FDA explains:

Current BPA food contact uses were approved under food additive regulations issued more than 40 years ago.  This regulatory structure limits the oversight and flexibility of FDA.  Once a food additive is approved, any manufacturer of food or food packaging may use the food additive in accordance with the regulation.  There is no requirement to notify FDA of that use. For example, today there exist hundreds of different formulations for BPA-containing epoxy linings, which have varying characteristics.  As currently regulated, manufacturers are not required to disclose to FDA the existence or nature of these formulations.  Furthermore, if FDA were to decide to revoke one or more approved uses, FDA would need to undertake what could be a lengthy process of rulemaking to accomplish this goal.

So, FDA is going to study BPA some more. And it is looking for some legislative help so that it can regulate BPA, at least according to the officials quoted by the Milwaukee Sentinel. But that doesn’t help the rest of us very much if we are looking for ways to avoid BPA exposure, particularly if you are pregnant, or have young children.

And it isn’t very satisfying that at this late date, more than 10 years after leading scientists questioned BPA’s safety, that the FDA is reaching this decision but taking the position it can’t do anything. More stalling at the behest of the chemical industry?

The American Chemistry Council continues to proclaim that BPA is perfectly safe, because, as the ACC always says, BPA has not been proven harmful to children or adults. The FDA held a conference call on Friday for some media to discuss BPA. And while I was not invited, I avidly followed one of the journalists who was tweeting the call. And she kept tweeting statements of the ACC representative about how safe BPA was and how all the studies were flawed because they failed to account for human metabolization of BPA. When I tweeted at her to ask about the fact that infants under 3 months lack the full complement of enzymes necessary to metabolize BPA (and fetuses have none), the ACC representative completely dismissed the scientific studies. If you don’t know who the ACC is, it is an organization whose members include Monsanto, Bayer, Merck, DuPont and many others. And the FDA has been accused of being too cozy with the chemical industry lobbyists, including the chair of the FDA panel taking a $5 million donation.

And to be honest, the FDA’s reversal really annoys the heck out of me after FDA Acting Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD’s article, Andy’s Take on BPA from August of 2008. In his article, he stated that “with progress comes peril!” He then argued that “science creates these products and science must inform us of their risks.” So, he contended that until science showed us that BPA was unsafe, we should assume that it is safe. Which seemed like a bunch of bunk to me. If you believe that “with progress comes peril”, then it seems to me that you would take a cautious approach, and instead have science inform us that a chemical was safe before it was used.

So what can you do if you want to avoid BPA? Well, skip polycarbonate plastic and avoid canned foods and beverages. And you really might want to, particularly if you are pregnant. In a non-scientific CBS Early Show experiment, Kelly Wallace ate a sandwich made from canned tuna, and had her blood drawn. She then spent 2 days avoiding BPA, and had her blood drawn again. The first set of blood samples showed a BPA level five times higher than what is found in the average US woman. 

To avoid canned foods and beverages, go for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred in glass or a plastic other than polycarconate. Polycarbonate is in the #7 “other plastic” group. Not all #7 plastic is polycarbonate, however. If you need BPA free feeding gear for kids and babies, check out my dear friend’s website, The Soft Landing. If you need a guide, check out Z Recommends’ The ZRecs Guide for advice on BPA-free children’s products.

SIGG does leach bisphenol A & Big Bottle Swap

A curious note in the SIGG saga involving its liners and bisphenol A (BPA) is that SIGG’s pre-August 2008 epoxy liners apparently leach BPA.

According to a news article, Frederick Vom Saal, a professor of biology at the University of Missouri, found that hormone disruptor BPA does leach from the old SIGG liners, just at levels below the “level of quantitation” used by SIGG in its test reports. Remember? As I’ve posted about before, SIGG only tested at levels above 2 parts per billion (ppb). So below that number, SIGG couldn’t say whether or not leaching occurred. And to be frank, that’s why I never recommended SIGG and always stuck with stainless. Because aluminum must be lined, and those linings historically have contained BPA. SIGG wouldn’t disclose its proprietary lining so I wouldn’t recommend SIGG or any other aluminum bottle.

The problem with SIGG is that it claimed no leaching above 2 ppb. But the details of that claim got lost in the shuffle with consumers, and consumers assumed no leaching equaled no BPA. And SIGG took advantage of that assumption, dramatically increasing sales.

But below that level of 2 ppb, nobody knew what happened with SIGG bottles. Vom Saal states that he did test SIGG, and found that the bottles leached below 2 ppb. And Vom Saal, and others like him, believe that BPA’s hormone disrupting effects occur at the parts per trillion (ppt) level.

If you haven’t read about the SIGG/BPA controversy, suffice it to say that when SIGG admitted in a company letter posted online a little bit more than a week ago that its pre-August 2008 bottles had BPA in their liner, a tempest was created. Consumers were upset. Bloggers posted harsh criticism of SIGG, expressing feelings of betrayal by the company lauded for its perceived greenness.

Yesterday, SIGG posted another letter on its website. This new letter from SIGG’s chief executive officer Steve Wasik states that the first letter “may have missed the mark.”  Boy is that an understatement! The letter states that while “SIGG never marketed the former liner as ‘BPA Free’ [SIGG] should have done a better job of both clearly communicating about [its] liner as well as policing others who may have misunderstood the SIGG message.”

Hello? Personally, I think SIGG continues to mislead consumers by relying now on the claim that it never promoted its bottles as BPA free. SIGG actively let others do that, and reaped the benefits, as detailed by Z Recommends in a most excellent blog post.

Wasik admitted surprise over the harsh response in a telephone interview reported by The Associated Press. I don’t believe he didn’t anticipate such a reaction. He told Z Recommends that he knew about BPA in the liner in 2006, and he should have told the public, not demand retractions from the Organic Consumer Association and the Environmental Working Group in March 2007 about BPA in SIGG liners. And SIGG certainly should not MOCK concerned moms.

Want to dump your SIGG? You can – SIGG will swap it out for a new bottle, you just have to pay shipping.

Want to switch out of SIGG completely? You wouldn’t be alone. A lot of people are angry at SIGG. TheSoftLanding is hosting the Big Bottle Swap – you can swap your aluminum SIGG for a stainless steel bottle. Use the form, send your old aluminum SIGGs to TheSoftLanding, and you’ll get a 30% off coupon to buy new stainless steel bottles. And TheSoftLanding will properly recycle the old SIGG bottles. A pretty good deal.

Massachusetts Issues Public Health Advisory to Parents About Bisphenol A (BPA)

bottle feeding babyToday the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued an advisory for bisphenol A. The DPH specifically advises parents of childrens up to 2 years old to avoid baby products containing bisphenol A (BPA) for making or storing infant food or formula. And the statement also warns pregnant women to steer clear of canned foods and beverages because of the BPA in the epoxy lining, which may result in fetal exposure.

If you aren’t caught up on the BPA debate, you might want to read some BPA basics.

It is interesting that the Massachusetts DPH is issuing this advisory just a few weeks after the leaked memorandum from a meeting of the canned food and beverage industry in which the industry representatives described a pregnant woman who would tout the safety of BPA to be the “holy grail.” Hmmm  . . perhaps not in Massachusetts.

To avoid BPA, you need to avoid polycarbonate plastic containers for storing food and drink. This means polycarbonate plastic baby bottles. But it also means the 5 gallon water bottles used for home water delivery as well.

You also find BPA in the epoxy linings of most canned food and beverage in the United States. Instead, go for fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred. In terms of infant formula, powdered is generally better than liquid, although it is my understanding the Similac 32 ounce plastic container for prepared liquid formula is BPA free.

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Health Canada Reports BPA Free Baby Bottles Leach Bisphenol A?

Last week, it was reported that Health Canada had found some allegedly bisphenol A (BPA) free baby bottles nonetheless leached BPA. Well, upon further digging, it appears that very low levels of BPA were found in fluid held in some BPA free baby bottles, but that the source may simply be BPA in “dust” from manufacturing or perhaps even the lab or some other problem. The report has numerous critics, and not just from industry. Truly, it appears that the study has significant flaws. In any event, I was going to prepare a long, detailed post but, thank god, Jennifer and Jeremy at Z Recommends already did it. So, I’m just going to link to their most awesome, detailed, incredible post digging into the story. Go read it.

And if you are tired of worrying about what is in your baby’s plastic bottles or sippy cups, you can try glass or stainless steel. Check out OrganicKidz stainless steel baby bottles, for example.

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Fallout from Industry Memo Seeking Pregnant Woman to Tout Bisphenol A

woman warriorYesterday I posted about the leaked meeting minutes from the canned food industry in which a young pregnant woman was identified as the “holy grail” to tout the benefits of bisphenol A (BPA). And then if that didn’t work, the industry was prepared to use fear to scare you to prevent the passage of legislation limiting the use of BPA. And since that post, several interesting things have happened.

The House of Representatives Committee of Energy and Commerce and its Subcommitee on Oversight and Investigations, which has been investigating the safety of BPA and its use in food contact products, particularly infant formula, issued a letter to the Chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc. (NAMPA) (and whose lobbyist organized the meeting), demanding:

(1)  All documents and communications, including talking points, minutes, summaries, memoranda, media statements, e-mails, and drafts of any such documents, relating to meetings of the BPA Joint Trade Association in April and May 2009, including documents and communications created by the date of this request;

(2) A list of all attendees at these meetings, including their affiliations and contact information; and

(3)  A list of all members of the BPA Joint Trade Association, including their contact information.

The Committee also asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to re-consider its assessment that BPA is safe, a position that has been roundly criticized, even by the FDA’s own Science Advisory Board. (The SAB said that the FDA had created a false sense of security about BPA.) And, in the biggest surprise, only a few hours later, in a surprise after the FDA’s stonewalling and reluctance during the Bush Administration, stated that it would have a review within weeks, not months.

We got industry’s attention when we demanded BPA free baby bottles and sippy cups. In fact, we got leading retailers and the leading manufacturers to basically eliminate BPA containing baby bottles and sippy cups.

And now that we are turning our attention to other BPA exposures such as canned foods and beverages, we have industry scared. So scared that they are plotting . . .to have a pregnant woman sway us, and if that doesn’t work, to scare us. And who are the fear mongerers?

So, let’s use our pocketbooks to buy fresh, frozen, dried, jarred (glass) or (my least favorite option) in a safer plastic. As Leslie says at Eco Child’s Play, we must spend wisely. We have a voice – one industry understands. Our pocketbooks.

Lynn at OrganicMania offers to talk to industry in a conference call about what we moms want – and it isn’t to have the wool pulled over our eyes.

And, let’s keep our VOICES RAISED.  Like Janelle over at Health Child Healthy World, who tells industry that WE DON’T WANT YOUR BPA.

Or Tiffany Washko at Nature Moms. She calls us to action. She tells us moms must be prepared to battle.

And, girl, I’m ready.

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Ready to piss off a mom blogger? Seek a pregnant woman to consume BPA lined canned goods

Looking for a job? If you are pregnant, I’ve got one for you:

WANTED: Young, pregnant mother to act as spokesperson. Must be willing to drink liquids and eat foods from metal canned foods and beverages. Must also execute full release and waiver for any and all birth defects or other harm suffered by fetus.

Think I’m kidding? Unfortunately, I’m not.

woman opening  canned goodsAn unbelievable memo summarizing a May 28, 2009 meeting of canned food and beverage industry representatives to combat the legislative efforts to restrict the use of bisphenol A (BPA) seeks the “holy grail” spokesperson – a “pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA.” The meeting minutes were obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the points verified by John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance (NAMPA), who only quibbled with the minutes because the meeting was 5 hours long. Kathleen Roberts, a lobbyist representing NAMPA, organized the meeting and also confirmed the accuracy of the notes, reported the Washington Post.

And, if the pregnant woman doesn’t convince you to drink the punch, well then, they will scare you. They will argue that without BPA, you won’t have access to baby food – ignoring that other packaging methods exist. And if scaring you doesn’t work, then they will focus on “the impact of BPA bans on minorities (Hispanic and African American) and poor” since, apparently they believe these groups eat more canned food but don’t care about the health of their children?

If you didn’t know, BPA is found in the linings of virtually all canned foods and beverages in the US, except for Eden’s Organics beans. So, you get dosed with BPA every time you consume metal canned foods and beverages, such that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found BPA in 93% of us.

BPA is linked to a host of adverse health effects. It is an endocrine disruptor – meaning it interferes with the body’s hormone system. A recent study found prenatal exposure to BPA feminizes male monkeys. There are numerous studies documenting adverse health effects in animals. Even if you don’t want to believe the more than 100 hundred studies that have found that BPA causes hormone disruption and other health effects, the National Toxicology Program found “some concern” (a 3 on its 5 point scale) for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current levels of exposure. And a large study of humans found BPA exposure linked to heart disease and diabetes.

So, um, yeah, let’s have a pregnant woman tout the benefits of BPA.

I’m so pissed. How stupid do these industry representatives think we are? They think that if they pick the right “messaging” (which the industry will discover through at $500,000 survey of consumer perceptions and messaging), we will ignore the growing body of evidence of adverse health effects associated with BPA exposure? That we can’t separate the fact from the fiction?

Hmm, you know, I’m perfectly capable of analyzing a press release. Take NAMPA’s press release following the Milwaukee’s JS story, in which NAMPA whines that the industry’s viewpoint is ignored by media and that governmental agencies consistently determine that BPA is safe. Well, the FDA’s assessment of BPA’s safety has been roundly criticized, even by the FDA’s own Scientific Advisory Board, which found that the FDA has created a “false sense of security” about BPA’s safety. That’s right, a FALSE sense of security. And evidence just surfaced that the FDA personnel were just too cozy with industry lobbyists and representatives. Oh, and by the way, although the National Toxicology Program isn’t a regulatory body, it is highly respecte. And it did NOT conclude that BPA was safe. Health Canada didn’t conclude BPA was safe.

So, instead of spending money to explore alternatives, the industry wants to spend money convincing us women (because, well, we do make most of the household buying decisions) that BPA is safe using a pregnant woman. Yep, that’s right, you will be persuaded by a young mother telling you BPA is safe.

Or, the industry will scare us that without BPA, we will die from contaminated canned foods. Well, Japan has made significant strides in alternatives to BPA containing epoxy resins for canned foods. And, Eden’s Foods uses oleoresin for its beans (and yes, I know that oleoresin won’t work for tomato-based or other acidic produts).  Or, they will scare people that we won’t have canned foods. Well, instead of canned, you can choose fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred in glass, or, my least favorite option, a BPA free plastic.

The memo indicates that the industry representatives and companies involved – Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown, North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), American Chemistry Council, Del Monte – want a “grassroots” effort. So let’s give them a grassroots effort of mommy bloggers speaking out about BPA, the potential health effects, and the options for BPA-free products.

Let’s not play nice with our children’s health.

Let’s raise our voices, moms! We got BPA out of most baby bottles. Let’s tell the industry enough is enough. Don’t try to fool us – do something proactive instead. Find a solution.

Are you ready to join us? Speaking out, my friend Sommer from Green and Clean Mom says “Talk to the Hand”. She’s got a plethora of Tweets about what we think about the industry’s back door meeting. But I love how she points out the irony that companies love mommy bloggers when they want us to sell something and be brand evangelists, but that we are hysterical and just don’t understand the science when we question product safety or environmental standards.

SafeMama says manufacturers are getting scared because we are smart. We educated ourselves about the hazards of BPA, and are seeking alternatives and demanding legislation.

Jenn Savedge (author of The Green Parent: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Living
and The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen’s Guide to Saving the Planet) at Mother Nature Network urges us to prove industry wrong.

And my friend Alicia from The Soft Landing (with a fabulous online store of BPA free items, among other things), asks who are the fear mongerers now? After accusing us of being fear mongerers, the industry representatives have decided to turn the tables to encourage their primary customers, women between 21 and 35, to stick with canned foods. And she cries foul.

Lisa from Retro Housewife . . . Goes Green reminds us that the FDA, tasked with protecting the safety of food contact items, is in bed with the BPA industry and wants us to use the power we have to stop this travesty.

Katy, over at Non Toxic Kids, is angry. Really angry. She wants green mamas moved to action.

This post received a Great Green Post Award from Green Moms Review!

The Great Green Post Award