What is BPA and Why Should You Care About It?

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It's crucial to know what substances are going into your body, from the ingredients you cook with to the cleaning supplies you use. Little things you don't often think about—like food storage containers—can contain toxins that ultimately impact your well-being. It's because of this that certain substances, like BPA, find themselves at the center of health conversations.

What is BPA?

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical material used in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. The substance has been used in plastic bottles, food storage containers, and the lining of canned goods since the 1960s. While BPA use has declined in recent years, some canned goods still contain BPA in their lining.

The FDA banned BPA use for infant bottles and formula packaging in 2012, but approximately 10% of current canned goods are lined with BPA plastics. Much of the other canned goods have voluntarily removed BPA from their packaging due to consumer concerns.

There is good reason to avoid BPA and it is possible to reduce your exposure if you know what to watch for.

Mounting Concern Over BPA

The concern over BPA use began in the early 1990s due to its use in food packaging. Originally designed to provide a barrier between the metal in can goods to prevent corrosion, studies have shown that BPA can leach into food and then into your body when you eat these foods.

Today, the largest source of BPA found in the human body is canned food. Research during the early 2000s found that 92.6% of people had BPA traces in their urine. The typical person in the studies fell into the safe exposure limit. However, BPA exposure, no matter the amount, is not ideal for human health.

Even if your BPA intake is below the FDA-approved amount (50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight), you may be at risk for hormonal disruption.

BPA Exposure and Reproductive Health

There has been much speculation regarding BPAs role in fertility issues, as well as conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis.

While initial studies suggest a strong correlation, many researchers agree that not enough evidence has been found to directly link BPA exposure and reproductive obstacles. That being said, the general consensus is that BPA is an endocrine disruptor, and should be avoided if possible.

How to Avoid BPA Exposure

If avoiding BPA is important to you, there are ways you can limit your exposure. Note that infants and children are likely at the most risk of exposure, as well as fetuses. If you have children or are pregnant, you may want to take steps to reduce exposure. Discuss any concerns you have with a health care provider.

Avoid Heating Containers

Heat can break down plastics, causing BPA to leach more into food and drinks. Avoid microwaving or heating plastic containers. Check your containers for damage or degradation, replacing them if necessary.

Some plastic wraps may also contain BPA or other plastics that might have similar health concerns attached to them. Only use plastic wraps that are labeled as safe to microwave or heat. Do not let your plastic water bottles sit in the sun, near a heater, and do not fill them with hot liquids.

Check for Codes Indicating BPA

You can check the bottom of your plastic containers or any that you may be interested in purchasing for a code indicating whether they contain BPA. If the container has a 3 or 7 in the recycling symbol, it may contain BPA.

However, not all containers made with BPA have this label, so it is not a sure sign that your item is BPA-free. As well, a 3 or 7 does not necessarily mean the product contains BPA, but it is a possibility. Some companies will advertise on their product label the item is BPA-free.

Just because something is labeled as BPA-free, does not mean it is free of other potentially concerning materials. BPS is a similar chemical that is also known as an endocrine disrupter. Other concerns lie with phthalates and polyvinyl chloride.

Limit Canned Food Use

About 90% of the canned foods you'll find on grocery store shelves are made with BPA-free liners. However, if you are concerned about BPA or other plastic exposure, you can limit your use of canned food by choosing foods packaged in glass jars instead.

Alternatively, choose frozen or fresh produce instead of canned options. For items like beans and legumes, visit the dry goods section of your local grocery store.

Change Your Storage Containers

Switching food storage and lunch box containers from plastic to glass or stainless steel will help you avoid BPA exposure. Ice cube containers, straws, and water bottles can also be found made from stainless steel.

A Word From Verywell

Although there are fewer canned goods and other food packaging made with BPA, the material is still in use today. There is some valid scientific evidence that avoiding BPA is a wise choice—taking steps to reduce your exposure may provide peace of mind.

Changing some of your containers and making some smart switches with the food items you buy can help. If you are concerned about your exposure to BPA, discuss it further with a healthcare provider.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Vandenberg LN, Hauser R, Marcus M, Olea N, Welshons WV. Human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA)Reprod Toxicol. 2007;24(2):139-177. doi:10.1016/j.reprotox.2007.07.010

  5. Cantonwine DE, Hauser R, Meeker JD. Bisphenol a and human reproductive healthExpert review of obstetrics & gynecology. 2013;8(4). doi:10.1586/17474108.2013.811939

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By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.