Campbell's Soup announced this week it plans to start using BPA-free cans for its popular soups. The company did not, however, give any indication as to when that change might take place, or what material will be used to replace the chemical in the cans' epoxy liners. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a hormone-disrupting chemical that studies suggest could, even in low doses, lead to behavioral problems, obesity, heart attacks, early puberty in girls, infertility, type 2 diabetes, and even breast and prostate cancers.
Campbell's Soup's BPA situation garnered national attention last year when the Breast Cancer Fund published an analysis of BPA content in popular kids' soups. Campbell's Disney Princess Cool Shapes tested highest for BPA contamination, with Campbell's Toy Story Fun Shapes testing second highest.
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That set off a Cans Not Cancer campaign that resulted in 70,000 letters urging the company to remove BPA from cans, including 20,000 from the Healthy Child Healthy World organization, which has been helping parents protect children from toxic exposures for two decades. "Campbell's decision to move away from BPA is a victory for consumers, who have been demanding this change," says Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. "To truly be an industry leader, the company now needs to fully disclose the timeline for the phase-out and the alternatives that will be used."
Truth or Hype?
While public health experts say removing BPA from cans is a move in the right direction, and likely the result of consumer demand for less toxic products, they also warn that BPA replacements need to be thoroughly tested to make sure they don't also cause health problems.
"Should we be concerned that one chemical with hormonal activity is being replaced by another chemical with hormonal activity? I would say yes," explains Laura Vandenberg, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow of biology at the Center for Developmental and Regenerative Biology at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "This isn't a single-chemical problem."
While studies show BPA is clearly a 'bad actor' chemical, Vandenberg notes that in our everyday lives, we're exposed to hundreds of chemicals with hormonal activity.
"These chemicals provide huge benefits to society, but we cannot pretend that they do not also have costs," she adds. "Small amounts of chemicals that act like hormones are plenty enough to change the development of fetuses, newborns, infants, children, and even adults."
She advocates for thoughtful changes to chemical regulation policies to remove the most harmful—and replace them with truly safer options.
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Campell's Soup failed to respond to Rodale.com's request to disclose the company's timeline to eliminate BPA from cans or the chemical that will replace BPA.
Protect Yourself from BPA
Cut down on canned food. A study looking at people who ate a can of Progresso soup discovered that bodily BPA levels jumped 1,000 percent. Eat fresh or frozen as often as you can, and to protect yourself from other harmful chemicals, opt for organic.
Say no to trivial receipts. When you order a coffee or something small, decline a receipt. Many receipts are now coated in BPA; the chemical is readily absorbed through skin.
Avoid vinyl shower curtains. A recent Silent Spring Institute study found many plastic shower curtains don't just harbor toxic vinyl chemicals, but also BPA. Choose natural fibers like cotton or hemp; both are naturally mildew-resistant.