How “Tin Cans” Can Undermine Your Health
I’m a big fan of fresh organic food. It’s nutritious, free of pesticides and I think it just plain tastes better. But one of the best reasons for eating fresh organic food isn’t the food itself… it’s the packaging.
You see most supermarket foods come packaged in plastic these days. And most of those plastics contain substances – called phthalates – that make them more flexible. Even most of the metal cans on store shelves are lined with plastics that contain phthalates.
The problem with phthalates is that they mimic the “female hormone” estrogen. And one – called bisphenol A (or BPA for short) – has been linked to a number of other health issues.
BPA has been around since the 1890’s. But in the 1950’s, companies began using BPA in plastics such as polycarbonate and polystyrene. That’s when BPA use really took off.
And I mean took off. The plastics industry now produces about 6.5 billion pounds of BPA every year. That’s almost as much as the weight of 9 Empire State Buildings… every year.
And a lot of that BPA ends up on grocery store shelves as packaging. It’s common in plastic bottles and container, as well as the linings of canned goods.
Small amounts of BPA leach into the food in these packages. And from there, it gets into your body. In fact, BPA – which doesn’t occur anywhere in nature – has been found in 95% of people tested.1
And here’s why that worries me…
- BPA interferes with the natural function of your hormones. It can affect children’s behavior and growth… and speed the onset of puberty.2
- Scientists at Britain’s University of Exeter have linked BPA to serious heart problems.3
- Another British team found a connection between BPA and both heart problems and blood sugar trouble.4
- Postmenopausal women with higher BPA levels appear to be more susceptible to free radical damage.5
- A recent Chinese study called BPA a “testicular toxicant,” and found it promotes sperm cell death.6
- According to researchers at the University of Missouri, BPA causes negative health effects at levels well below those currently considered “safe.”7
Fortunately, there’s also good news.
A few natural food companies have already switched to BPA-free packaging. And – thanks to consumer pressure and legislation in Canada and elsewhere – mainstream companies are beginning to follow suit.
Efforts to find a substitute for BPA have also gotten a push from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Earlier this year, the FDA announced that “… recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA…”
If you shop in the natural food aisle, you should find some packages marked “BPA-free.” Glass and cardboard “brick” packages are BPA-free… though the lids on glass jars may contain BPA in the lining. And, of course, fresh organic foods are always a safe bet.
Dr Kenneth Woliner, M.D.
1 Wolstenholme JT, et al. The role of Bisphenol A in shaping the brain, epigenome and behavior. Horm Behav. 2010 Oct 26.
2 Erler C and Novak J. Bisphenol a exposure: human risk and health policy. J Pediatr Nurs. 2010 Oct;25(5):400-7.
3 Melzer D, et al. Association of urinary bisphenol a concentration with heart disease: evidence from NHANES 2003/06. PLoS One. 2010 Jan 13;5(1):e8673.
4 Lang IA, et al. Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults. JAMA. 2008 Sep 17;300(11):1303-10.
5 Yang YJ, et al. Bisphenol A exposure is associated with oxidative stress and inflammation in postmenopausal women. Environ Res. 2009 Aug;109(6):797-801.
6 Wang Q, et al. Mitochondrial signaling pathway is also involved in bisphenol A induced germ cell apoptosis in testes. Toxicol Lett. 2010 Nov 30;199(2):129-35.
7 vom Saal FS and Hughes C. An extensive new literature concerning low-dose effects of bisphenol A shows the need for a new risk assessment. Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Aug;113(8):926-33.