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The Dangers of BPA in Canned Goods

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can be found in countless personal care and plastic products, including the liners of canned goods, plastic and non-stick food containers, plastic wraps, water bottles, and cashier's receipts.

The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, has consistently insisted BPA is safe,1 and has opposed both state and federal legislative proposals to ban the chemical.

Contrary to the weight of the evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also claims BPA is safe for use in food packaging,2,3  although it has banned the chemical from being used in sippy cups and other baby products due to potential health concerns to infants.

Health advocacy groups have relentlessly fought for the removal of the chemical though, and in response to consumer concerns many plastic product manufacturers and food companies have voluntarily agreed to stop using the chemical.

Two-Thirds of Cans Still Contain BPA

Despite industry promises, two-thirds of cans still contain the hormone-mimicking chemical according to a recent report.4,5 Among the worst of the worst were Campbell's, Del Monte, and General Mills.

All of Campbell's cans tested positive for BPA, as did 71 percent of Del Monte's and 50 percent of General Mills canned goods.

As noted by Janet Nudelman, director of Program and Policy at the advocacy group Breast Cancer Fund, and a co-author of the report: "This is shocking to us because we've been hearing for years now that the canned food industry en masse was moving away from BPA."

The report now urges major food manufacturers to create a comprehensive plan for the removal of BPA from all cans, to be transparent about their timeline for removal, and to ensure that replacement chemicals are in fact safe by sharing their safety data.

So far, this has not been the case. Many plastic bottle manufacturers, for example, simply swapped BPA for bisphenol-S (BPS) — a chemical that is very similar to BPA and has been shown to produce many of the same health effects.

In 2013, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch discovered that even minute concentrations — less than one part per trillion — of BPS can disrupt cellular functioning. Metabolic disorders like obesity, diabetes, and even cancer, can result from such disruptions.

So "BPA-free" products may very well leave you with a completely false sense of security. On March 28, Campbell's announced it will "complete a transition to cans which do not use Bisphenol-A (BPA) linings by the middle of 2017."6

Around the same time, Del Monte also announced it would phase out BPA by the end of this year.

How BPA May Affect Your Health

BPA, which mimics the hormone estrogen, has been linked to:

  • Structural damage to your brain; hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
  • Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, ovarian toxicity,7 and infertility8
  • Breast cancer9
  • High blood pressure and heart disease10,11,12
  • Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
  • Increased prostate size, decreased sperm production, hypospadias (penis deformation),13 erectile dysfunction,14 and stimulation of prostate cancer cells
  • Altered immune function
  • Preterm birth15
  • Diabetes
  • Reduced efficacy of chemotherapy treatment16

According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), titled "State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals,"17 issued in 2014, endocrine-disrupting chemicals may need to be banned across the board to protect the health of future generations.

An Endocrine Society task force also recently issued a scientific statement18,19 on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), noting that the health effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals are such that everyone needs to take proactive steps to avoid them.

EDCs like BPA are particularly concerning for pregnant women and young children, as they can interfere with normal physiology and maturation, even in extremely tiny amounts.

By mimicking your natural hormones, these chemicals can trick your body into increasing or decreasing hormone production or blocking hormone signals by binding to cell receptors. This is why compounds that interfere with these vital processes can produce such profound effects at such miniscule concentrations.

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