Eco-Tip: How to Reduce BPA in our Bodies

It’s likely that you’ve heard of BPA, a toxic chemical that damages genes and disrupts our hormones. If you’ve tuned in to the alphabet soup of toxic chemicals, you may also have heard of DEHP, another toxic chemical that causes cancer and interferes with our ability to have healthy children. There’s good news about these chemicals this week: the Silent Spring Institute and the Breast Cancer Fund teamed up with some other researchers to figure out what simple steps we can take so that we’re not exposed to so much BPA or DEHP.

This study is important because most of us are exposed to these two chemicals daily (shown in this BPA study and this DEHP study) . BPA is often used in the linings of canned food, and DEHP is often used to make plastics flexible.

What the Silent Spring Institute and the Breast Cancer Fund did is strikingly simple. They asked five families (2 adults and 2 children in each family) to be volunteer participants. They measured BPA and DEHP breakdown products in the urine of these 20 people. Then they gave the families special catered meals for three days. The special meals provided fresh, organic foods, and foods that were not canned or packaged in plastics. Then the researchers did another round of BPA and DEHP measurements. They found that BPA levels went down by over 60 percent, and levels of DEHP breakdown products went down by almost as much. These are food changes that all of us can make!

Of course there are lots of reasons to eat fresh and organic foods, and lots of reasons to avoid plastic packaging. This study gives us one more incentive.  If you’ve fallen out of the habit of shopping at your local farmers market, maybe this will help you make the trip. Or maybe you can subscribe to a community supported agriculture farm.  If you’ve always wanted to have a garden, maybe this can be the last bit of inspiration that you need.

Good food and less toxic chemicals! It’s a healthy combination.

Comments Closed

6 Comments

  1. Posted April 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    Can you give us some more specific guidelines? I know that organic foods do not contain pesticides but what does that have to do with BPA and DEHP? I also thought that if I do buy canned, buying it in a glass container was a better choice. But what about plastic packaging? Are there certain types of plastics that are best to avoid? It’s certainly not feasible to avoid them all – bread bags, chip bags, cereal box liners, yogurt containers, fresh meat, the list goes on and on…

  2. Caroline Cox
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Anna,

    Here are some more details about the foods used in the study.

    “Foods were prepared almost exclusively from fresh and organic fruits, vegetables, grains and meats (Supplemental Material, Table 1). Preparation techniques avoided contact with plastic utensils and non-stick coated cookware, and foods were stored in glass containers with BPA-free plastic lids. Containers were filled to below the top so foods did not contact the lids. Researchers instructed families to store foods only in these containers during the intervention and to avoid microwaving the lids. Participants received stainless steel water bottles and lunch containers to avoid other common sources of BPA and phthalates.”

    Also, attached is a list with more specific menus from the study.

    Your questions are excellent, and hard to answer. I think the point of the study is that reductions in the use of plastics is helpful, but even in the study some plastic was used so a complete elimination is not possible.

    It’s not obvious to me either why organic food should have less BPA or phthalates although I am always happy to see more encouragement for the use of organics.

    Caroline
    CEH

  3. Karen
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Did the study include any Dairy? If so, what was the source? A large but unpublicized source of phthalates is dairy products because PVC tubing is used in milking machines. There are milking machines that use natural rubber or silicon — organic dairies at least should be required to use these! I contacted a number of organic dairies and was only able to find two sources (Strauss family dairy and Grassfields cheese) that looked into the matter and were able to confirm that they did not use PVC tubing.

  4. Nan Roberts
    Posted May 5, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting. I get various dry organic foods in bulk at my coop, but they are all in plastic bins and i bring them home in plastic bags. I store them in glass without plastic lids, I cook with either stainless steel or cast iron. But it seems that every food we can get is stored or transported in plastic. And what about the milk containers? The “cardboard” cartons aren’t anymore. Is the plastic they are coated with any better than plastic milk jugs?

  5. Caroline Cox
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Nan –

    Thanks for your comment. I think that the message from the research study was that reducing use of plastics reduced the body burden of BPA and phthalates. You’re right that it’s probably impossible to do this 100%, but steps that we take in that direction will help.

  6. Caroline Cox
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Karen, here is the list of foods used in the study. Milk and other dairy products were included.

    Breakfasts
    Bran and blueberry muffins
    Cinnamon rolls
    Granola
    Fresh fruit mix
    Yogurt

    Lunches
    Turkey Sandwich w/Stone-ground mustard and Swiss cheese
    Tuna salad
    Chicken taco filling
    Vegetable bow tie pasta
    Vegetable sticks
    Fresh fruita
    Toasted nuts
    Bread Flour
    tortillas

    Dinners
    Chicken and dumplings
    Salada Salad dressing
    Crispy oven-fried chicken
    Mashed potatoes
    Sauteed spinach
    Deep-dish lasagna

    Snacks
    Apple crisp
    Brown rice krispie treats

    Beverages
    Water
    Coffee
    Soda
    Milk

    Comments

    Yogurst From polypropylene container
    Tuna from retort packaging – LDPE liner
    Fresh carrots, celery Apples, bananas From bulk food bins Organic, from grocery store
    Salad with Organic, seasonal greens
    Salad dressing Made with oils, vinegars in glass bottles
    Used Fresh spinach
    Used Fresh vegetables for lasagna filling and sauce
    apple crisp With fresh apples
    Krispie treats Made with peanut butter from glass jars
    Provided stainless steel water bottle to each participant Instructed to use a French press or ceramic hand drip
    Instructed to choose glass bottles or fountain drinks or to abstain from use
    Advised to select milk in glass bottles

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  1. [...] the meantime, what can we do to reduce our exposure to BPA? The Silent Spring Institute and the Breast Cancer Fund teamed up with some other researchers to test the effect of consuming fresh, organic foods not packaged in plastics or cans on reducing [...]