Environmental Health Promotion
This mini-blog series is part two of the “Environmental Health Promotion” project, which deals with global health challenges that are harmful to both the environment and people’s well-being. Its main goal is to raise public awareness about how we can take care of the environment and improve global health. It also offers ways for individuals to protect themselves from these issues. In the first part of the report, we looked at five global health concerns: Antibiotic Resistance, PFAS, Vaccines and Immunization, Microplastics, and Mycotoxins. This next section will explore E-Waste, Formaldehyde, Triclosan, Bisphenol A, and Phthalates. These concerns will be explained in detail, including what the problem is and what individuals can do to help solve it. Since there is only one planet Earth, all of us need to take action. By getting involved, each of us can play a part in preserving the health of our planet, ensuring that future generations can enjoy the same quality of life that we do.
You can find the other blogs related to the second report here:
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical compound that belongs to a group of substances known as bisphenols. One of its most common applications is in the manufacturing of polycarbonate plastics, which are frequently used in everyday items such as water bottles, baby bottles, and food storage containers due to their durability and clarity. Additionally, BPA plays a crucial role in the lining of metal cans, including those used for canned food and beverages. This lining helps prevent corrosion and maintains the quality of the food or drink inside the can.
Because of its extensive use in various consumer products and food packaging, there is a significant risk of human exposure to BPA. People can come into contact with BPA by touching items containing BPA, ingesting food or liquids that have been in contact with BPA-containing materials, or even inhaling tiny particles that may contain BPA.
In the European Union, the utilization of Bisphenol A (BPA) is subject to strict governance through the REACH Regulation, which encompasses various aspects such as the registration, assessment, authorization, and restriction of chemicals. As part of these regulations, the EU took significant steps towards BPA control. Beginning in 2011, the European Union prohibited the use of BPA in baby bottles as a precautionary measure. Subsequently, in 2020, further restrictions were imposed, extending to thermal paper products like cash register receipts.
Similarly, in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took action to regulate BPA usage. Since 2012, they have enforced a ban on BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and packaging for infant formula. Additionally, individual states within the U.S. have introduced their regulations, which include limitations on BPA in specific products and the introduction of mandatory labeling requirements.
Beyond the EU and the U.S., numerous countries around the world have implemented their specific regulations and guidelines concerning BPA. For example, India and Malaysia have enacted restrictions on BPA usage in baby bottles, demonstrating a global concern for its potential health effects. In contrast, countries like China and Indonesia have taken even more stringent measures, imposing outright bans on BPA in packaging for infant food, underlining the varying approaches to BPA regulation worldwide.
How serious is the problem?
Bisphenol A (BPA) can affect our hormone system by acting as estrogen, a natural hormone in our bodies. This can be concerning because it has the potential to disrupt the balance of hormones, leading to various health problems. Specifically, there is apprehension that BPA may be linked to reproductive disorders, developmental abnormalities, and disruptions in hormone regulation.
Studies have found connections between exposure to BPA and harmful effects on reproductive health, which include lower fertility rates and poorer sperm quality. Additionally, some research hints at potential links between BPA exposure and a higher risk of health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, and specific types of cancer.
BPA poses significant risks to aquatic ecosystems and wildlife due to its harmful effects, its ability to build up in organisms, and its long-lasting presence in the environment. This substance can enter the environment through improper disposal or by leaching from consumer products. In aquatic ecosystems, BPA has been linked to problems such as abnormal reproduction and development in various organisms. Furthermore, BPA can accumulate in these organisms, meaning that as it moves up the food chain, its concentration increases. This process, known as bioaccumulation, leads to higher levels of exposure for creatures higher up in the food chain. Additionally, BPA’s long-lasting nature in the environment means that the risks and potential harm it poses can persist for a considerable time.
What can I do?
Scientific evidence indicates that infants and children might be more vulnerable to the possible effects of BPA. To reduce their exposure, parents and caregivers can adopt the following precautions:
- Refrain from microwaving polycarbonate plastic food containers, as extended exposure to high temperatures can lead to the breakdown and potential release of BPA.
- It is advisable to avoid using plastics labeled with recycling numbers 3 or 7, as they may have a higher chance of containing potentially harmful substances.
- Consider selecting alternative materials such as glass, porcelain, or stainless steel for food storage, especially when dealing with hot food or liquids.
- Cut down on the consumption of canned foods, as the linings of certain cans may contain BPA. Whenever possible, opt for fresh or frozen foods.
- Choose BPA-free baby bottles to ensure that infants are exposed to as little BPA as possible.
Author: Fion Chan*
Edited by: Jasmine Therese Arcilla
*Fion is SOGH’s Environmental Sustainability Manager. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and is pursuing a Master of Medical Science in Global Health at the University of Gothenburg.