The Dangers of BPA: BPA during Pregnancy

BPA pregnancy__1451439521_108.89.137.58You’ve surely heard some of the hype about BPA.  But is there really cause for concern?  Actually, yes.  Bisphenol A or BPA can be a harmful chemical that enters the bloodstream with some dangerous side-effects, especially during pregnancy.  Today we’re taking a look at the dangers of BPA during pregnancy and later this week we’ll examine how BPA may harm babies.

What is BPA?

BPA is a substance that has been used for nearly half a century to harden plastic containers, prevent rust in tin cans and deter bacteria.  It is widely found in food containers and beverage bottles.  Although it was designed to help protect and seal food and drinks, the chemical leeches from the containers into the items it is containing.  This contamination then enters our bodies and remains in our bloodstreams.  The Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 90% of Americans have BPA in their bloodstreams.

What are the Dangers of BPA?

The dangers of BPA stem from its ability to act like hormones, especially estrogen, in the body and interfere with the proper function of the endocrine system that doles out normal hormones.  Hormones are required to maintain body processes and are particularly important during pregnancy.  Pregnancy hormones are responsible for creating a nurturing and sustainable environment for babies to grow and thrive inside their mothers.  When hormones are off kilter, complications may arise during pregnancy and beyond.

Small levels of BPA are probably not terribly harmful.  However, during pregnancy, moms-to-be should take precautions to protect the development of their babies.  While a baby is growing in the womb, even small doses of BPA may have large consequences.  Research shows that BPA may lead to miscarriage, low birth weight or birth defects, and have greater implications on the baby once it is born.  BPA may be responsible for brain, behavioral, respiratory and reproductive disorders in infancy and later in life.  For mothers, BPA exposure during pregnancy can lead to insulin resistance (a threat that is already elevated during pregnancy) and increase body weight, both risk factors of type 2 diabetes.

The Food and Drug Administration has indicated some concern over the affects of BPA however no legislation has been passed preventing its use.  Some states and cities have taken matters into their own hands and outlawed the use of BPA in products made in their jurisdictions.  The US government is supporting more research on the potential dangers of BPA, including BPA during pregnancy, and encourages manufacturers to use BPA-free containers.  Unfortunately, sometimes the alternatives to BPA are just as dangerous as BPA itself.

How to Reduce BPA Exposure during Pregnancy

During pregnancy it is important to limit exposure to BPA as much as possible; however some exposure is unavoidable in our modern lives.  Whenever it is feasible, select fresh or frozen foods over canned foods, or look for foods contained in glass jars or cardboard cartons.  Acidic foods and beverages are more likely to leach BPA than other items.  Also, water bottles marked with recycling codes “3” or “7” probably contain BPA where as other numbers are less likely to have BPA.

bpa_free__1451439562_108.89.137.58Also, be vigilant of how you store food.  Glass containers are the best choice.  When you have to use plastic containers, make sure they are BPA-free and follow washing instructions.  Many plastic containers are not dishwasher or microwave safe.  Throw away any plastics that are chipped or cracked.

Here’s a little known fact about BPA:  it is also found in thermal paper like receipts.  Handle receipts as little as possible to avoid skin absorption of BPA and wash your hands after you do touch them.  Don’t use hand sanitizer until you’ve washed as that can actually increase absorption of BPA rather than reduce it.

Now that we’ve explored the dangers of BPA during pregnancy, stay tuned on our blog for our discussion of BPA and babies later this week.