From toys to packaging of both food and non-food products to cutlery and straws, it's almost impossible to avoid it. Much of the plastic is for single-use applications, where we throw it away afterwards.
The numbers you hear about plastics in our oceans are staggering. Estimates are that up to 8 million metrics tons of plastic enters our oceans it's year. (source). That's a LOT, and it's only getting worse.
It's true that plastics have made our lives easier and products cheaper. But at what cost?
Today we'll specifically be covering BPA (Bisphenol A)—an industrial chemical compound found in the plastics often used in these products.
Over the years, it's been linked to negative health effects like cancer, heart disease, liver problems, and even developmental issues in children. Sounds like something to avoid, am I right?
In 2012 the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, but it still exists in products like plastic cutlery and utensils, food packaging, and more.
It's not fully understood how BPA affects us, but we believe that it's better safe than sorry when it comes to a toxic chemical linked to such horrible health effects.
Limiting your child's exposure to BPA.
Thankfully, since BPA is banned from baby bottles and sippy cups, that covers a lot of the potential BPA exposure.
But there are still some things you can do to limit your child's BPA exposure as much as possible.
Avoid plastic food containers as much as possible. Since BPA can still be found in food packaging, storing your food in glass or ceramic is a much better idea. This also means avoiding purchasing food that's packaged in plastic as well.
Don't use plastic plates, cups or utensils either. While these are convenient and there's no risk of breaking them, glass or ceramic is a lot safer in terms of BPA exposure.
Opt for wooden toys and natural teethers. These more natural materials will be free of BPA and since they can end up in your child's mouth, it really helps limit the exposure to not only BPA but other toxic chemicals found in plastics.
Look at the bottom of the packaging for a number. Most plastic containers will have a number of the bottom. If the number is 1, 2, 4 or 5, it contains little-to-no BPA.
If you have to use plastic, go for soft plastic. Hard and rigid plastic is typically the type that has BPA. You know, the kind used in CD cases, water bottles, etc. Softer plastic typically doesn't have BPA.
Eat less canned food. The plastic liner used in a lot of food cans contains BPA. Instead, opt for frozen or fresh foods. Both pregnant women and children should avoid eating any canned foods. Unfortunately, this also applies to liquid baby formula that comes in cans, which should also be avoided: always go for powdered baby formula to minimize exposure to the chemical. (source)
Don't microwave plastic containers. Heating plastic will help the BPA leech out into the food.
Consider tossing old plastic containers. Go through your cupboards and take out anything made of plastic. If you have any food containers that are made of plastic and more than a few years old, consider disposing of them and replacing them with newer plastic containers that are certified BPA-free, or better yet, switch to glass or pyrex.
Watch for other plastic things your child puts in their mouth. This might include things like bottled water, teethers or plastic spoons. Anything made of plastic might potentially have BPA—especially if it's not intended to be in your kid's mouth—so opting for more natural materials is a good idea.
Don’t Panic: It’s Not as Bad as it Seems
There is no conclusive proof that BPA is harmful to children, but it’s understandable why parents would want to avoid the potential risk.
However, you don’t have to go crazy over it. I would strongly recommend taking the above advice into consideration, but don’t drive yourself crazy trying to get rid of every minute source of BPA in your house.
It’s good to be cautious, but going overboard with worry is only going to drive you crazy!