Hidden Dangers of Plastic Bottles

"BPA-free" is a latest catch-phrase to hit the green scene, with everything from baby bottles to canned foods bearing the label. But what does it really mean and why should you care?

BPA (or Bisphenol-A) is a chemical substance that's used in the production of polycarbonate plastics (reusable drinking bottles and baby bottles), epoxy resins (canned food linings), and white dental sealants. It's also added to certain types of children's toys (teething rings and pacifiers) to make them more flexible.

Low-level exposure to BPA is not a problem, but constant low-level exposure may be, especially for children. And the big worry is that BPA may be leaching out of these products and into our bodies more often than we realize. Health experts used to think that we only had to worry about the high levels of BPA that leach out of plastics when they are cracked or exposed to high temperatures. Thus the recommendations to toss reusable bottles after a few years and never put boiling liquids into them.

But the latest research shows that BPA is now so common that even the low-doses we are all exposed to on a daily basis may be harmful to human health, especially for children whose bodies are still developing..

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of 93% of the 2,517 participants analyzed. According to the report, "BPA has been shown to have hormone-like effects on the developing reproductive system and neuro-behavioral changes in the offspring. Scientists continue to debate whether effects could possibly occur in people who are exposed to low environmental levels of these chemicals."

And while the scientists debate, more and more kids are exposed to BPA everyday.

BPA worries may be short-lived, as consumer demand is forcing manufacturers and retailers alike to discontinue its distribution. In the meantime, it makes sense to minimize your family's exposure to BPA whenever possible. Look for tempered glass, stainless steel, opaque plastics, or plastics bearing the BPA-free label in products such as reusable bottles, sippy cups, and baby bottles. Avoid canned foods or look for those that are marked BPA-free.