It’s admirable to see how so many consumers have gotten the health message to cut down on sugary drinks like soda and carry around their beverage of choice — water. Nothing could be healthier than making sure you’re well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh clean spring water, right?
Well, now there’s a caveat. The plastic water bottles so many of us carry around might contain a chemical that has toxic properties and can leach into our water. If you’re using a hard transparent bottle with the recycling number 7 on it, it probably contains bisphenol A, also known as BPA.
The National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recently released its findings that BPA is of “some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures.” BPA, a chemical used to strengthen the plastic in bottles, is also used in the epoxy lining of food cans.
Several corporations, notably Wal-Mart, have pledged to take baby bottles with BPA off their shelves. In Canada, health minister Tony Clement announced BPA was placed on the toxic list and plan to ban polycarbonate baby bottles. But the FDA is saying the studies it reviewed do not show convincing evidence of harm to humans that would justify taking products with BPA off the market in the U.S.
Meanwhile, consumers can voluntarily cut down on their BPA exposure and reduce plastic waste at the same time. Teresa Mendez-Quigley, director of the Women’s Health and Environmental Network, recommends carrying tap water in reusable containers, such as stainless steel or BPA-free plastic water bottles. She says it’s safer to drink tap water that has been filtered with a granulated carbon filter in a faucet or water pitcher. At meetings, she suggests, serve pitchers of iced water rather than individual bottles.
Michelle Lauer, RN, MSN, BC, chair of Nurses Healing Our Planet, an environmental task force of the Delaware Nurses Association, recommends staying up-to-date about environmental health issues through Web sites such as enviroccancer.cornell.edu. This site presents compelling information on the connection between plastics with BPA and cancer. To decrease BPA leaching from bottles, hand wash them in mild detergent and discard worn or scratched bottles. And whenever you microwave food or beverages, use glass or lead-free ceramic containers.
In September, the American Nurses Association presented testimony to the FDA panel of experts and urged them to ban the use of BPA in food, healthcare, and children’s products.
“The ANA is a firm advocate of the precautionary approach regarding dangers to public health,” Nancy Hughes, the director for occupational and environmental health for the ANA, said in a news release. “Safer alternatives to BPA are available and currently in use.”
It makes sense to act now and reduce BPA use, especially if non-toxic options are available. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry?