Sunday, June 15, 2014

Plastics or not?

A while ago I started removing plastics from my house, after my investigations about how the Endocrine Disruptor chemicals (like bisphenol A, BPA) leach into the food. But to go plastic free is more or less impossible. One example is the supermarket receipts made from thermal paper that often contains BPA. Looking at the Australian governmental website Product Safety Australia (Product Safety Australia) I could not find any information on thermal receipts. Therefore I sent an inquiry to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Agency) asking if there is any regulation of endocrine disruptors in thermal receipts in Australia. I am awaiting reply. Commonly thermal paper contains BPA, even if there are alternatives that are safer like Pergafast 201, described in the blogentry here (Blog 'Health & Environment'). Anyhow, the concern is that when you touch/hold the ticket/receipt you will get the chemical on your skin and then transfer it to whatever you touch next.

In April 2012 the Swedish Chemicals Agency was instructed by the Government to propose a ban on bisphenol A in thermal paper and to carry out a survey of the use of bisphenol A in toys and childcare articles. When living in Sweden in 2013 I noticed shops advertising the fact that ‘We use BPA free receipts in this shop’. Anyhow a ban on bisphenol A in thermal paper in Sweden was suggested in a report on 29 June 2012. But here in Australia I have not seen or heard any comments on this issue.

There is a Facebook page that is a good resource for information about endocrine disruptors in thermal receipts issue (FB page BPA Free Receipts). This page seems to be created by Appvion Inc. /Appleton Paper and basically is an advertisement for BPA free paper BUT what they don't state is that the replacement chemical BPS they use is just as bad as BPA. As you can see below the two structures are quite similar...

Bisphenol S                   Bisphenol-A-Skeletal.svg

         bis-phenol S                                     bis-phenol A        

...and therefore both mimic the sex hormone estradiol and are classified Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.



BPA/BPS also mimic the estrogen hormones, the primary female sex hormones. This is a class of compounds similar in structure to estradiol.

Some possible negative effects on the human body after contact with the chemical BPA (or similar endocrine disruptor):

1. It can interfere with mammalian development by mimicking the action of the sex hormone estradiol, one of the possible reasons for early puberty in girls (1999, Nature, Howdeshell et al, ‘Environmental toxins: Exposure to bisphenol A advances puberty | doi:10.1038/44517)

2. Research at Deakin University (and other places) indicating that BPA might be partly responsible for causing both obesity and diabetes (2012, FASEB, Gibert Yann et al, (Deakin Research Newsletter April 2014 ).

3. From Wikipedia: Neurological disruption, thyroid disfunction, cancer, reproductive disorders, asthma, heart disease. (Wikipedia entry for Bisphenol A), click on link to read for yourself.

Many argue that Wikipedia is not a reliable source or information. Therefore I have found the same information in a report published by the UN in 2013: (which has more detailed info for the interested). In this report they use EDC as the acronym for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (UN report on EDCs 2013).

The effects of long term low dose exposure of BPA/BPS is not known yet BUT after a bit of research my suspicion is that  it is not good for you in any way.

Studies by the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) in the US has shown that 90 % of americans have BPA (bis-phenol A) in their body and that it is excreted via the urine. So why does this matter? Is it harmful or not? As always it is argued by some scientists that it is completely harmless, like Justin Teeguarden in the US (Article in Environmental Health News in US). Others are finding connections between BPA and cardiovascular diagnosis and diabetes. Even the suspicion about this should be enough to try and limit exposure to humans and especially children.

The ban on using BPA  in baby bottles and drink bottles is anyhow widely spread but what is unknown to many is that alternative chemicals chosen by industry are just as bad. One replacement chemical used is BPS (bis-phenol S):

Now say that you have decided to spend the money and buy bottled water for your family to have CLEAN and PURE water to drink. The water gets delivered in bottles like this:

... which are made of polycarbonate plastics and most likely leak out BPA (or BPS) into the water it contains. 'Refresh pure water' is claiming to be Australias largest supplier of water in plastic bottles. Looking through their website they do not mention anything about testing for BPA/BPS content in the water (Refresh Pure Water website).

I now filter the water I use (Brita filter) and I continue to throw out plastic containers.

The endocrine disruptors are everywhere around us and will stay with us for generations to come. What we should try to do is stop using plastic as much as we can. This is no easy task as you will realise if you try a trip to the supermarket with intent of not buying any food that is in contact with plastic. To avoid BPA you also need to avoid canned food as the tins are epoxy lined and this plastic inner lining of the cans leak out endocrine disrupting chemicals.

I could continue to investigate this as I continually find out more disturbing facts

- recycled paper contains BPA (from thermal receipts)
- money contains BPA (transferred from thermal receipts in the wallet)
- chicken wrapped in plastic contains BPA

etc, etc

If you now wish to avoid exposure to BPA/BPS you might want to:

- avoid canned food
- avoid polycarbonate plastic containers 
- avoid recycled plastic with resin code 7 (contains polycarbonate plastic)
- avoid heating food in plastic containers in the microwave
- avoid washing plastic containers in the dishwasher (releases more BPA)