RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—BPA is just a three-letter word, but scientists are finding it can cause some pretty complicated problems. (That spells trouble, since BPA in food comes from popular canned food products.) For starters, BPA, also called bisphenol A, is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can throw off the body's hormonal system, possibly leading to everything from early puberty in girls, obesity, and cancer to infertility and developmental problems. As with many types of toxic exposures, children are often most vulnerable because the dose is higher compared to body weight, and kids' bodies aren't fully developed to deal with chemical invaders as well as adults.
We've long known that canned foods usually contain various levels of BPA, but the Breast Cancer Fund released a study this month after investigating BPA levels in canned food marketed to kids.
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The new report, "BPA in Kids' Canned Food," found BPA in every canned food product tested. Campbell's Disney Princess Cool Shapes tested highest, with Campbell's Toy Story Fun Shapes second highest for BPA contamination. Earth's Best Organic Elmo Noodlemania Soup ranked third highest in kids' canned food tested for BPA, showing that even though the food might be organic, the packaging could still compromise the product. "In all of these products—but particularly in the Campbell's Disney Princess and Toy Story soups—a child's-size serving could result in BPA exposure at a level of concern," says Gretchen Lee Salter, Policy Manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. "Consider the number of servings of canned foods—soups, pastas, vegetables, fruits—that a child eats in a week, in a year, and then throughout her developing years, and you start to see the urgency of getting BPA out of food cans."
The Breast Cancer Fund report comes just days after a government report—ones health experts called "seriously flawed"—suggested BPA exposure might not be that unhealthy. (Read more: BPA: Yay or Nay? New Study Casts Doubt on Chemical's Danger)
"This report shows the that we're all part of a big experiment to see what BPA will do to our kids and us," says William Goodson, MD, a breast cancer surgeon and senior Clinical research scientists at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. Goodson published a 2011 study showing that BPA causes non-cancerous cells to grow and survive like cancer cells. "We weren't given any choice about being in this experiment, and it's time for that to change."
Here's how to start solving the BPA in food problem:
• Take it to the Hill. It's common sense. Packaging the food we eat in poisoning containers is going to increase healthcare costs because it makes us sick. Contact your federal rep today and ask them to sign up as a cosponsor of H.R.432, the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2011, which would ban the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from all food and beverage containers.
• Seek safer cans. Some canned food companies are nixing BPA and using alternatives. For instance, Eden Foods uses oleoresinous c-enamel, a mixture of oil and a resin extracted from plants. The Breast Cancer Fund warns that other companies are advertising as using BPA alternatives, however, they aren't disclosing what they're using. Of course, you can sidestep this problem altogether by just eating fresh or frozen veggies, preferably, organic.
• Say no to trivial receipts. BPA is also detected in varying amounts in thermal receipts. So the next time you buy a coffee or something you wouldn't need to return, kindly say, "No receipt, please," when you order.