5 Ways to Reduce Your Exposure to Toxic BPA
By Monica Amarelo and Samara Geller
No one disputes that bisphenol A, a toxic compound widely used to line food cans and other food packaging, is polluting people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of more than 90 percent of Americans sampled. In 2009, tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) were the first to find BPA in the umbilical cords of nine of 10 infants sampled.
Because food packaging is the primary source of exposure, it stands to reason that BPA levels in our bodies are affected by what we eat and how that food is packaged. Although a new British study suggests that lowering your BPA level yourself through diet is not easy, there are some steps you can take to reduce your exposure.
BPA acts like estrogen in the body. It disrupts hormones, affects brain development and metabolism, and harms the reproductive system. Evidence suggests the developing fetus and young child are most at risk, but adolescents also appear uniquely vulnerable. BPA has also been linked to cancer, heart disease and other serious disorders.
The new study, by researchers at the University of Exeter and published in the journal BMJ Open, was the largest real-world study to date of the effect of dietary moderation on BPA in the body. It tracked 94 teenagers who for one week changed their eating habits and behaviors to try to avoid BPA in food packaging. While the researchers found no measurable effect on BPA levels in the overall group, they did see a reduction in BPA levels for the teens who started the trial with the highest levels.
Researchers speculated that the drop in BPA levels would have been more significant in a controlled setting. But the teenagers were going about their normal lives, and they reported it was hard to know what they could eat because BPA is so widely used and packaging containing BPA is so poorly labeled.
In 2012 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. A year later, the agency prohibited it in infant formula packaging. But, like the British teens, for the rest of us avoiding BPA is still a challenge.
In 2016, EWG created a database of about 16,000 processed foods and drinks that might be packaged in materials that contain BPA. In California, products packaged in materials with BPA must carry a warning label on the package or store shelves.
As the food industry scrambles to find alternatives to BPA, concern has grown that without appropriate oversight, food companies will substitute similar chemicals or new chemicals that could be just as harmful or even more harmful. A National Toxicology Program study of 24 replacement chemicals found that many already in use are structurally and functionally similar to BPA, and, just like BPA, may harm the endocrine system.
Here's what you can do to limit or avoid exposure to BPA:
1. Buy fresh, frozen or dried food instead of canned.
2. Limit how many packaged foods you eat.
3. For those who cannot avoid foods in BPA-lined cans, rinsing the food in water may help lower the level of BPA in the food. Bonus: Rinsing cuts back on other additives too, such as sodium on beans or sweet syrup on fruit.
4. Never heat food in the can. Transfer it to a stainless steel pot or pan for stovetop cooking or microwave in glass—not plastic.
5. Search for your family's favorite foods and beverages in EWG's BPA product list. If they are packaged in containers made with BPA, look for alternative products in EWG's Food Scores. Tip: Use the BPA-free filter function when searching.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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