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4 Ways to Avoid Toxic Chemicals in Food

Despite what the industry will tell you, BPA is toxic. NRDC scientist Veena Singla wants
itand its equally poisonous replacementsout of our products.
August 12, 2015 Perrin Ireland
Kang Kim/Offset
To start with, can you tell me what BPA is and where it's used?
BPA is a manmade industrial chemical. It's a key building block in polycarbonate (no. 7)
plastic, which is used to make a wide variety of products: water and juice bottles, food
containers, CDs, DVDs, eyeglass lenses, and more. It's used in the lining of food and
soda cans to prevent the contents from corroding the metal. BPA also serves as a
"developer" in thermal paper receipts. These receipts aren't actually printed with ink;
they're coated with chemicals that react to heat and change color to create the
appearance of printed type.

Wow. BPA is in a lot of stuff. So how is it harmful to human health?

BPA is an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that are not naturally
produced in our bodies but can mimic or block the action of our own natural hormones.
BPA has been shown to mimic the female hormone estrogen. This upsets the normal
processes of development (for growing babies and young children) and the functions
necessary for maintaining an adult body.

In lab tests on animals early in life, BPA has been shown to cause altered brain
development, reproductive abnormalities, and obesity, among other conditions. There is
strong evidence that BPA is toxic to the ovaries and the uterus.

In May 2015, at the urging of state scientists and public-health advocates, including
NRDC, California decided to add BPA to the list of chemicals known to cause harm to
womens reproductive health. Congratulations on a great science-based win! What
happens next in that process?
Warning labels may be required on products that contain BPA, allowing consumers to
make informed choices. And we'll probably see less BPA use in the future: When
California lists a chemical as toxic, national companies that sell products there often just
remove it from their manufacturing process to avoid having to develop two lines. For
example, a common flame retardant was completely phased out of furniture after
California added it to the toxic list.

I know NRDC previously helped get BPA out of a lot of baby products, such as bottles
and sippy cups. But I've heard about a replacement called BPS. Is that just as
bad? Where is it found?
Bisphenol S (BPS) and F (BPF) are chemicals similar to BPA that are sometimes used
as substitutes. We dont have many studies on them, but the existing data shows that
BPS in receipts and BPF in food packaging (like can liners) are just as toxic as BPA.

It seems like were constantly playing whack-a-mole with toxic chemicals: Evidence
shows one is really bad, and with help from groups like NRDC it gets phased out, but
then the replacements are equally toxic. Is there any big-picture solution?
The root of the problem is an inadequate regulatory and policy framework for examining
these chemicals before theyre put on the market. NRDC is pushing to reform and
strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act, or TSCA, to require the chemical industry
to show that a substance is safe before putting it in everyday products. Real reform
would also phase out toxic chemicals and ensure their replacements are safer.
California is taking the lead on this at the state level with its Green Chemistry Initiative
for consumer products, which was launched in 2013. That effort requires more data
from manufacturers to ensure chemicals are safe and asks them to look for alternatives.
The idea is to spark innovation in designing and promoting better chemicals to replace
the toxic ones we use today.

For a consumer who wants to know more, it can get really overwhelming. Even the dust
in my house has toxic chemicals in it! What do you suggest for people trying to avoid
these toxics while staying sane?
You cant really shop your way out of the problem, and its unfair to put all that
responsibility on consumers. The change needs to happen at the policy level. We
shouldnt have to worry about whether what we buy is safe or not. But here are a few
general rules of thumb.


Buying food stored in glass jars is a good way to avoid BPA. Many products like
soup broth now also come in BPA-free boxes.


Instead of plastic reusable water bottles, use unlined stainless steel or glass.


Say no thanks to paper receiptsa lot of stores will e-mail your receipt now.


Wash your hands frequently and always before you eat. Chemicals in dust or on
thermal paper receipts can get on your hands, and you dont want that stuff in your
mouth. Its the same with your kidstry to wash their hands often throughout the
day and always before they eat.

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