How to Give BPA the Boot
By now you are probably familiar with BPA (or byphenol A)—and the dangers of exposure to this estrogen-mimicking industrial chemical.
A major culprit in BPA exposure is the epoxy lining in canned foods and drinks—including soup and infant formula—and plastics—including some sippy cups and baby bottles. BPA is also found in paper, such as thermal cash register receipts, which is then easily transferred to our skin. Unfortunately, there is also a potential for contamination during the paper recycling process, which could result in trace amounts of BPA in paper products ranging from toilet paper to business cards.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
It could get overwhelming trying to avoid this chemical, since it seems ubiquitous. Here are some pointers so you can say “hit the road, BPA!”
Some easy starters for minimizing BPA exposure in your life are provided by Women’s Voices for the Earth:
- Opt for fresh or frozen foods instead of canned. A 2011 study by the Breast Cancer Fund showed that people decreased the amount of BPA in their bodies by 60 percent in just three days when they eliminated canned foods and food packaged in plastics from their diet. Another study found that eating one can of soup every day for five days increased the BPA in a body by 1200 percent!
- Look for products packaged in glass or lined cardboard instead of cans.
- Store food in glass or ceramic containers instead of plastic.
- Use stainless steel or glass water bottles instead of plastic bottles.
- Refuse receipts when you don’t need them. BPA rubs off easily onto hands, and then gets into mouths or eyes.
- Store receipts you need in an envelope separate from your wallet or purse, and wash your hands after handling them.
- Avoid plastic where possible or look for plastics with the recycle symbol #5, which signifies polypropylene, a safer plastic.
If you must use plastic, here are some tips on safer use:
- Keep plastic products away from heat, as heat tends to promote the leaching of chemicals. Even the safer types of plastics may leach chemicals due to heat or prolonged storage.
- Do not reuse plastic drink bottles that were intended for a single use.
- Bottled drinks should be used quickly as chemicals from the plastic leach over time. Don't buy plastic bottles of drinks if it has been on store shelves for a long time.
- Taste—if your drink has even a bit of a plastic taste to it, don't drink it.
If you are a fan of purchasing canned food to keep a well-stocked pantry, check out these suggestions from Breast Cancer Fund:
- Some companies have already started using BPA-free alternatives in their canned beans, although Eden Foods is the only company that includes "BPA-free" on the label. Unfortunately, most companies aren't disclosing what they're using instead of BPA and we don't know which replacements are safe.
- Some companies are selling frozen cooked beans, so check the freezer section.
- If you're looking for a cheaper alternative, try soaking dry beans overnight and cooking them yourself. You'll get affordable, BPA-free beans for the next day's recipe. You can even make a large batch and freeze them for future heat-and-eat convenience. Just don't reheat them in plastic containers, which can leach BPA or other plastic chemicals.
- The best BPA-free alternative to canned fruit is simply replacing it with dried or fresh fruit. An added bonus is that many canned fruits contain added sugar so cutting the BPA might also cut the calories.
Ravioli, Pasta With Meatballs and Other Canned Meals
- These all-in-one meals have some of the highest levels of BPA of any canned foods, possibly because their high fat and sodium content encourages leaching of the chemical. That means ridding your pantry of these foods offers great BPA-free bang for your buck. If you crave convenience or can't cook, try replacing canned with frozen meals. Just make sure to pop the meal out of the plastic (the tray too, not just the film cover) before throwing it into the microwave!
- Going out to eat can be a challenge because you don't know if the meal you ordered contains canned food or not. Your server, however, should have this information, so don’t be afraid to ask. Generally speaking, many restaurants use canned foods so it might be tough to completely avoid BPA in your restaurant meal.
- Many soups are available in Tetra Pak containers, which look like oversized juice boxes (you might recognize them from the soy milk section of the store). Tetra Paks are BPA-free, made from cardboard lined with aluminum foil and with a layer of PET (plastic code #1). However, some cities don't recycle Tetra Paks—check with your city’s waste program and urge your city to recycle them if it doesn't already.
- In need of chicken, beef or vegetable broth? Many broths also come in Tetra Pak containers, or you can use bouillon cubes and water to create the same broth flavor in recipes. If you enjoy cooking, you can also make your own broth and freeze extra in glass jars for later use.
- Cracking open a can of veggies is definitely convenient, but vegetables have some of the highest levels of BPA among canned foods, according to product tests. For heat-and-serve convenience, buy frozen vegetables and steam in the microwave in a glass or ceramic bowl covered with a plate (ditch the steam-in plastic bag).
- Canned tomatoes are a pantry staple, but you can get them without the can: some grocers now stock tomatoes in Tetra Paks or glass. If your favorite store doesn't carry them, ask.
- Of course, fresh vegetables are always the best option. Check out what's local and seasonal in your area—they're likely the least expensive, freshest and tastiest produce selections around.
That covers two of the largest sources of BPA exposure: plastic containers and canned foods. But here are some tips from the David Suzuki Foundation on how to avoid BPA in less expected places:
- Swap out plastic wrap—Parchment paper, glass jars, beeswax cotton wraps or recycled aluminum foil are better options.
- Keep plastic out of the freezer, microwave and dishwasher. BPA and phthalates leach from plastics at a higher rate in hot or cold temperatures.
- Enjoy BPA-free coffee and tea at home. Use a glass French-press, stainless steel electric percolator or glass kettle to avoid piping hot water against plastic pieces.
- Bring your own mug. Disposable paper cups are often lined with plastic—and they're wasteful.
- Skip aluminum soda cans—also lined with BPA.
- Play it safe. Wood and cloth toys are excellent, toxin-free alternatives to plastics.
- Talk to your dentist. Dental sealants and composites can contain BPA.
- Breastfeed (or use powdered baby formula). BPA transfers through breast milk, so protecting you also protects baby. More BPA leaches into liquid than powdered formula.
In addition, Silent Spring Foundation points out studies have shown that people who eat more meals outside of the home have higher levels of BPA. So consider eating in and cooking with fresh ingredients to further reduce BPA exposure at mealtime.
Still have some nagging or more detailed questions about how to avoid BPA? See if these facts from Environmental Working Group (EWG) help:
- Infant formula: All U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of the formula containers. Tests of liquid formulas by FDA and EWG show that BPA leaches into the formula from all brands tested. Enfamil formula appears to have the highest concentrations of the 20 tests. Choose powdered formula which may not have BPA in packaging and which is more diluted with water. If your baby needs liquid formula look for types sold in plastic or glass containers.
- Our testing of canned foods found that BPA leaches from the liner into the food itself. Beverages appear to contain less BPA residues, while canned pasta and soups contain the highest levels. Rinsing canned fruit or vegetables with water prior to heating and serving could lessen BPA ingestion.
- Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA.
- Some metal water bottles are lined with a plastic coating that contains BPA. Look for stainless steel bottles that do not have a plastic liner.
A pygmy rabbit rescued from a breeding site in Beezley Hills, Washington, eats owl clover in its new enclosure. Kourtney Stonehouse, WDFW
- 7 Devastating Photos of Wildfires in California, Oregon and ... ›
- California Wildfires Destroy Condor Sanctuary, at Least 4 Birds Still ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
- Climate Activists Prepare for November Election - EcoWatch ›
- The Next Election Is About the Next 10,000 Years - EcoWatch ›
- Latino Voters Worried About Climate Change Could Swing 2020 ... ›
- Climate Crisis Could Change Permafrost Soil Microbes, With ... ›
- Zombie Fires Could Be Awakening in the Arctic - EcoWatch ›
- The Arctic Is on Fire and Warming Twice as Fast as the Rest of the ... ›
By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
Scientists are on the brink of scaling up an enzyme that devours plastic. In the latest breakthrough, the enzyme degraded plastic bottles six times faster than previous research achieved, as The Guardian reported.
- Mutant Enzyme Recycles Plastic in Hours, Could Revolutionize ... ›
- Scientists Find Bacteria That Eats Plastic - EcoWatch ›
- Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Accidentally Develop 'Mutant' Enzyme That Eats Plastic ... ›