Plastic has become a pervasive material in our society and is used for virtually everything ranging from food packaging to protective equipment to medical instruments to furniture. Many people are now aware that plastics containing Bisphenyl-A (BPA) are damaging to their health because BPA is a potent endocrine disruptor that has been linked to increased rates of cancer, liver abnormalities, diabetes, brain development issues in fetuses, and sexual dysfunction (there are 40 total adverse health effects known). What most people don’t know (or don’t admit to themselves) is that all plastics, even the safer ones provided the recycling numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5, leach estrogen-like chemicals that promote disease. Manufacturers realize that BPA is a hot-ticket item and they routinely market plastic as “BPA-free”, implying they are safe for everyone, including expecting mothers and young people. Frankly, this is completely false and you have been misled by Big Industry (again).
First, the correct term to use is “BPA not intentionally added”. That is what the industry actually calls the plastic we describe as BPA-free. BPA not intentionally added is an accurate description of these plastics—BPA-free is not. It turns out that factories that produce plastics often use equipment that comes into contact with BPA- containing plastics. Through residues and plastic dust, other kinds of plastics come to be contaminated with BPA (including those where BPA was not intentionally being added). Therefore, tests (plural) show that “BPA-free” plastics still often contain BPA. This means that if you use plastic baby bottles that are labeled as “BPA-free”, you may still be exposing your infant to BPA (and potentially setting them up for serious health issues later in life).
Second, didn’t anyone ever wonder what they replaced BPA with? BPA served a function in the manufacturing of plastics. If the manufacturers took this chemical out, they had to replace it with something. And that something is Bisphenyl-S (BPS). BPS turns out to also have endocrine disrupting activity but, unfortunately, is more persistent as it is less biodegradable, more heat stable, and more resistant to light. This means BPS spends even more time in the environment than BPA, allowing it to cause more harm to humans and other-than-human persons.
The reality is you should not consume anything that contacts plastic that is liquid, acidic, and/or fatty, as all of these features promote leaching into your food and drinks (making milk and other liquid dairy products one of the worst items to purchase in plastic). Remember, aluminum cans are not any better (nor are cardboard containers) as they are lined with a polymer that also leaches estrogen-like chemicals. We need to demand a return to glass, which is inert and does not leach harmful compounds (so long as it is lead free, etc.). Glass can be reused, making it far greener than recycled containers. It may be heavier, more brittle, and not as convenient as plastic, but isn’t your health and health of your children worth some inconvenience? I would politely argue we need to change our practices. Plastic is now everywhere in our environment—even suspended in ocean water and along the ocean floor. This plastic refuse has broken down into small pieces and is being eaten by animals, animals that are food for species we eat (in other words, we are eating our trash). Like most materials that are recent inventions, plastic is something we became dependent on before its real role in health was known (and before we figured out what to do with all the plastic items we discarded). Fortunately, this can be halted from becoming a much bigger problem—just stop buying plastic products and manufacturers won’t create any more of them. Your children’s children with thank you for returning to glass (and other safer materials).