17/10/2016 3:41 PM IST | Updated 05/11/2016 8:59 AM IST

How Your Household Containers Could Be Harming Your Health


Literally everyone uses plastic items to store, serve and eat food—spoons, containers, microwave cooking dishes, jars—the list is long. Even restaurants pack food for home delivery into plastic containers and most of us (including me, until recently) store our water in plastic bottles. These days however, I prefer to take a bottle made of stainless steel to work with me and avoid ordering in. This is because many plastics contain a bunch of chemicals, which leach into my food and water. Some of these chemicals have potentially serious side effects.

From the available data, it does appear that exposing ourselves to BPA may not be the greatest idea in the world.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a colourless solid used to make certain plastics and resins. Plastics made using BPA are clear and tough. A study conducted on the effects of BPA in laboratory rats concluded that exposure to BPA affected male rats' reproductive tracts, brains, and metabolic processes. It also stated that it is likely that BPA exposure also affected the female rats' brains, reproductive systems and immune systems. Another study conducted on human exposure to BPA found that the levels of BPA in human fluids and tissue were enough to induce effects in animal models.

A study published in the Journal of Environmental Research examined the relationship between anxiety and depression in children up to the age of 12 due to BPA exposure during the mother's pregnancy. It concluded that there was evidence that prenatal BPA exposure is associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression among boys aged between 10-12 years. However, the study did not find a similar association among girls.

The French Food Safety Agency has recommended that more tests be conducted in order to assess the risks of low doses of BPA. In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) no longer permits the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and liquid infant formula linings. California has even gone so far as to list BPA as a female reproductive toxicant.

From the available data, it does appear that exposing ourselves to BPA may not be the greatest idea in the world. So how do we limit our exposure to BPA? According to one study, BPA exposures were substantially reduced when participants' diets were restricted to food with limited packaging. Buying fresh produce looks like a good place to start, and it would obviously also relieve us of all the other concerns about packaged foods. Another way to limit exposure to BPA would be to use non-plastic containers, made from materials such as stainless steel, glass, or ceramic, to store food. I believe that these small changes to our food storage and consumption habits will go a long way in preventing BPA exposure. And given what I've learned about BPA, I think it's better to be safe rather than sorry.

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