Plastic Bottles and Containers: New Concerns

A study from Peninsula Medical School in Exeter, U.K. shows that high levels of urinary Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical compound commonly used in plastic packaging for food and beverages, is associated with heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and abnormal liver tests (JAMA, Sept 17, 2008). BPA can break down to form female hormones called estrogens that are linked to breast and uterine cancer in women, decreased testosterone levels in men, and may also cause birth defects.

You are exposed to BPA, primarily through food, drinking water, tooth sealants that you may receive in a dentist's office, and exposure through your skin and lungs from household dusts. Ninety percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their urines.

Although the safety of BPA is still uncertain, you would be prudent to limit your exposure. The primary concerns are plastic water bottles and baby bottles. Each bottle is supposed to have a number in a circle stamped on the bottom. Try to avoid the following numbers:
#1 Most single-use water bottles are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE).
#7 This is used for many colorful hard plastic lexan bottles made with polycarbonate plastics.
At a minimum, do not re-use bottles or containers with these numbers. Do not freeze or reheat foods or beverages in them.

Plastic products that bear the following numbers appear to be safe:
#2 HDPE, high-density polyethylene, the most widely recyced plastic,
#4 LDPE, low-density polyethylene) and
#5 PP, polypropylene.


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