What is BPA?

Know what your plastic products are made of and make sure they are BPA-free.

BPA’s health effects have been the subject of growing concern in recent years because the chemical is an endocrine disruptor.

What are the health effects of BPA?

The chemical BPA has been linked to numerous problems, including obesity, thyroid dysfunction, cancer, asthma, and reproductive disorders.

What products is BPA found in?

Experts suspect heat is the main culprit; the National Institutes of Health recommends that polycarbonate plastics (the kind made with BPA) not be microwaved or put in the dishwasher, because the plastics could break down over time and leach BPA into food. Scratches can also release the chemical. BPA is released in considerable quantities into the environment, sparking concerns about the effect on aquatic animals and other wildlife.

BPA may be in plastic products such as water bottles.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Is BPA toxic?

In July 2012 the feds banned BPA in all children's drink containers, but there is still widespread disagreement about BPA safety. The Food and Drug Administration maintains that its research has shown BPA not to be harmful to adults at the levels found in food; it has, however, expressed “some concern” over recent studies indicating that it can negatively affect brain development, behavior, and prostate development in fetuses and young children.

Activist groups such as the Environmental Working Group and some scientists counter that many studies have indicated that BPA can be dangerous at lower levels than those acknowledged by the FDA.

How can I avoid BPA?

Thanks to the increasing availability of BPA-free products, it’s possible to avoid the chemical. Recent studies have suggested, however, that even BPA-free plastics, including those used in sippy cups and other kids’ products, may have hormone-disrupting properties—in some cases showing higher activity than even BPA. How to avoid the danger? Glass and stainless steel seem safe options—though not nearly as lightweight or convenient.

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