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5 Ways to Limit BPA Exposure

I feel like a broken record since I’ve blogged about it here, here and here (and even included a BPA-free bottle in my gift guide, here), but BPA, or bisphenol A, is one of those substances that keeps me awake at night. Exposure has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, prostate and breast cancer, plus issues with fetal development and fertility (among other things). The worst part is that it’s in so many things, from sippy cups to cosmetics, which makes it impossible to avoid.

With that in mind, the results of this new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shouldn’t come as a surprise. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health measured the amount of BPA in the urine of people who consumed canned soup for five days in a row (BPA is frequently used in the linings of canned goods). The result? A more than 1,000 percent increase in the concentration of BPA compared with when people ate fresh soup daily for five days.

I don’t eat canned soup very often since I prefer to make my own (there’s a big batch of turkey soup in my fridge right now), but I do like to use canned tomatoes and tomato paste in my soups. However, I suspect that canned tomatoes would likely need to be in a can with an epoxy (read: BPA) liner because they’re so acidic—which means I need to find a store where I can buy tomatoes in glass jars.

However, I’ve never seen a BPA-free label on a can, and even a quick web search has given me conflicting information, so I’ve pulled together a list of ways to limit your exposure to BPA in your food:

  • Environmental Working Group suggests that rinsing canned fruit or vegetables with water prior to heating and serving could lessen BPA ingestion.
  • Buy canned goods from these seven companies who don’t use BPA (or only use it for certain acidic foods).
  • Look for vegetables in glass jars. There may be a BPA-containing lining on the underside of the jar’s lid, but the chances of BPA leaching into the food through that lining is much smaller than if there’s an epoxy lining on the entire inside of a can.
  • Buy dry soup mixes instead of canned soup. (You can also control the amount of sodium and preservatives this way.)
  • Avoid plastic food containers, especially to heat up your food. Heat can cause higher amounts of BPA to leach into your food.

Do you try to limit your BPA exposure? What tips do you have to share? —Aleigh

(Image via Steven Depolo)

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Controversy: Susan G. Komen for the Cure & BPA

Witch’s Rock in Blarney, Ireland. I’m feeling witchy today.

I’m a bit angry today. I’m forgoing my usual Link Love Friday post and stepping back up on my soapbox for a moment to share just one link: this story about Susan G. Komen for the Cure from Mother Jones. Here’s the gist, in case you don’t have time to read the whole thing: Susan G. Komen, an organization that funds breast cancer research, says that bisphenol A (otherwise known as BPA) does not increase a person’s risk of developing breast cancer. (See for yourself on their “Factors That Do Not Increase Risk” page–just scroll down to “plastics.”)

This wouldn’t be surprising, except that the story goes on to reveal that Susan G. Komen has also funded two different research projects that are currently investigating the safety of BPA. So, at best, based on their own research projects, you would think the organization would caution their network of cancer survivors to be wary of BPA, if not warn them to do their best to avoid it altogether. Just to be on the safe side.

I don’t enjoy being critical of an organization that has done many great things for cancer survivors, but I think definitively saying that BPA is safe while there is so much evidence to the contrary* (and while their organization is researching this very topic), is irresponsible. Worst of all, it turns out that several of the organization’s biggest donors happen to include BPA in their products, which makes me question their ethics as well.

So. Draw your own conclusions here. It’s possible that BPA is indeed safe. Personally, I don’t think that’s the case. I also don’t think chemicals like BPA should be considered innocent until proven guilty, which is why I do my best to stay away from them. (That’s easier said than done: You might remember this post from a few weeks back, where I linked to a story in which a scientist was quoted as saying that we “kind of swim in” BPA.)

I am seriously disappointed with the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. I’d love to hear your thoughts, though. Are you disappointed, too? Am I being overly critical?

10/2/2016 UPDATE: Oh, look! Komen has conveniently removed “plastics” from their list of Factors That Do Not Increase Risk and into “Factors Under Study,” although the information on the site is still very pro-BPA. Baby steps, perhaps, but still not going far enough, Komen. 

*For sources, check out the links in the first few paragraphs of the Mother Jones story.

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Two scary studies about synthetics in cosmetics

Here’s the thing: I try really hard not to be alarmist on this blog. Do I think that there are some really awful ingredients in most cosmetics? Yes. Do I think the industry should be more highly regulated? Absolutely. But I also believe in balance, and I recognize that there’s a lot more to the decisions you make about which products to buy than simply what’s on the ingredients list.

But, yesterday I read two things that really frightened me, and I think they’re worth sharing. They really solidify one of the reasons I am so passionate about natural beauty: It’s just as much about being healthy as it is about feeling and looking good. So here goes.

Doctors in San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center have recently discovered that bisphenol A (otherwise known as BPA) and methylparaben can keep breast cancer drugs from being effective. BPA is commonly used in plastics and to line aluminum cans, while methylparaben is one of those nasty ingredients often found in synthetic cosmetics.

Essentially what this means is that in addition to potentially causing cancer, these substances also potentially make cancer treatments ineffective. Here’s a quote from the story in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Since most breast cancers are driven by the hormone estrogen, the bulk of the drugs used to treat breast cancer are designed to knock down estrogen. BPA and methylparaben not only mimic estrogen’s ability to drive cancer, but appear to be even better than the natural hormone in bypassing the ability of drugs to treat it, Goodson said.

But it was the final paragraph that scared me the most:

Goodson said BPA and methylparaben are hard to avoid because they are used so widely and are even found in household dust. He said he does not know whether the effects of exposure to the chemicals are reversible.

“It’s used so much. We kind of swim in it,” he said.

Then, I read about a different, small study of 20 teenage girls recently released from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). In it, the group tested the urine of teenage girls (who tend to use more cosmetics than older women)–and discovered synthetic, hormone-disrupting substances like methylparaben in every single one. It scares me to think about the effects these synthetic substances could have on adolescent girls whose bodies are already changing in so many ways.

I don’t know about you, but I want to go give all of my natural products a big hug today. Does this information make you re-think any of the products in your beauty routine?

(Photo via sarah azavezza.)

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