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Bisphenol A (or BPA) is a plastic additive. It is used to make polycarbonate, a clear and rigid plastic. BPA appears to leach from plastics when they are heated or frozen. Unfortunately, BPA is everywhere, from the majority of baby bottles to the liners of formula cans to our Nalgenes. Health professionals are concerned about BPA because it mimics estrogen and can cause unnatural hormonal fluctuations as a result. This kind of mimicking makes BPA an “endocrine disruptor,” and that’s bad for everyone, regardless of sex, and for non-humans, too. Consumer Reports says: “During such “endocrine disruption,” chemicals can interfere with or mimic the action of hormones, in ways that can upset normal development.”

Wikipedia has a very detailed article about BPA, its effects, and types of plastics that contain it. Here is a table from their page:

Identification in Plastics

There are seven groups of plastic polymers,[32] each with specific properties that are used worldwide for many packaging applications (see table below). Each group of plastic polymer can be identified by its Plastic Identification code (PIC) – usually a number or a letter abbreviation. For instance, Low-Density Polyethylene can be identified by the number “4” and/or the letters “LDPE”. The PIC appears inside a three-chasing arrow recycling symbol. The symbol is used to indicate whether the plastic can be recycled into new products.

Highlighted types in the table below are believed to not leach chemicals in any significant amount. Type 1 (PET) and Type 6 (PS) have unreacted phthalate monomer in PET and unreacted styrene monomer in PS which could be leached to packed contents in certain conditions [32], but those resins do not use Bisphenol A (BPA) during polymerization and package forming.

Type 7 plastics, such as polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, are made from BPA monomer.[1] When such plastics are exposed to hot liquids, BPA leaches out 55 times faster than it does under normal conditions, at up to 32 ng/hour.[33] Also, Type 3 (PVC) could have BPA as antioxidant in plasticizers, if BPA is used during package forming.[1]

Plastic Identification Code Type of plastic polymer Common Packaging Applications
1 Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET, PETE) Soft drink, water and salad dressing bottles; peanut butter and jam jars
2 High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Milk, juice and water bottles; yogurt and margarine tubs; trash and retail bags.
3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Juice bottles; cling films
4 Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) Frozen food bags; squeezable bottles, e.g. honey, mustard; cling films; flexible container lids.
5 Polypropylene (PP) Reusable microwaveable ware; kitchenware; yogurt containers; margarine tubs; microwaveable disposable take-away containers; disposable cups and plates.
6 Polystyrene (PS) Egg cartons; disposable cups, plates, trays and cutlery; disposable take-away containers; yogurt and margarine containers
7 Other Beverage bottles; baby milk bottles.

Here’s a quick guide to safe plastics from Consumer Reports:

if you are concerned about the presence of BPA, look for unbreakable BPA-free plastic, such as polyethylene, an opaque, less-shiny plastic (sometimes marked with recycling code 1 and/or the abbreviation PET) that does not leach BPA. Other plastics not made with BPA are high density polyethylene (2, HDPE), low density polyethylene (4, LDPE), or polypropylene (5, PP). Avoid plastics marked with recycling codes #3, #6 and #7 (polycarbonate, also marked PC).

Check out Baby’s Toxic Bottle (Center for Health, Environment & Justice). Click here to download a PDF of the study that’s responsible for making bisphenol-A a household term. Check out Consumer Reports’ site for a primer on safer baby-bottle purchasing. (Thanks drool.icio.us).

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