This is part of our ongoing series helping consumers better understand chemicals, chemistry, and product formulations. We translate the science, bust the myths, and give you an honest assessment, so you can make informed choices for your family!
Ingredient: Bisphenol-A (BPA)
What it is: BPA is a carbon-based synthetic compound belonging to the group of diphenylmethane derivatives and bisphenols. It’s been in commercial use since the 1940s to make rigid polycarbonate and epoxy resins. It is still one of the highest volume industrial chemicals produced, with approximately 6 billion pounds manufactured annually. It was one of the 62,000 chemicals presumed safe and “grandfathered in” when Congress passed the Toxic Substances Control Act in 1976.
What it does: BPA is most commonly used as an epoxy resin and to harden plastics. And it’s found in a stunning array of products: medical devices, dental sealants, water bottles, the lining of canned foods and drinks, cash register receipts (!!), and many others. With this kind of environmental prevalence it should come as no surprise that almost everyone has some amount of BPA in them. Detectable levels of BPA were found in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people six years and older.
Why we’re featuring it today: BPA is included in our Honestly Free Guarantee and despite its recent reappearance in headlines claiming maybe it’s safe after all, we believe the evidence against BPA far outweighs the small handful of studies (many industry funded) demonstrating “safety.”
A long and complicated history, it’s easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of studies that have been conducted on BPA. First synthesized in 1891, BPA did not set off a wave of controversy until the late 1990s, when an animal study linked low-dose BPA exposure (the amount the National Toxicology Program deemed safe in the 1980s) with reproductive damage. This was followed by an Food & Drug Administration (FDA) study showing BPA contamination in samples of canned infant formula and Consumer Reports reporting BPA leaching from baby bottles when heated.
A wave of studies then ensued that confirmed reproductive damage along with early puberty, behavioral and brain defects from a low-dose of BPA. Then in 2003, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hired an industry contractor to lead an evaluation on the safety of BPA. While eventually the contractor was fired for ties to the chemical industry, it was not before a preliminary report was released stating that BPA was “safe.”
NIH then funded a panel in 2007, known as the Chapel Hill panel, who reviewed all the literature on BPA and concluded that our current levels of exposure posed risks to human health. Following this, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) released its own report linking BPA to early puberty, breast cancer, prostate effects and behavioral problems. The NTP also highlighted that pregnancy and early life are especially sensitive periods due to higher exposure and limited ability to metabolize the chemical.
It was then revealed in 2008 that one of the FDA’s Science board members accepted a $5 million donation from a retired medical device manufacturer with links to BPA manufacturing. While the FDA has issued updates on its stance, including amending food regulations to require no BPA in baby bottles or sippy cups in 2012, it still believes that BPA is safe at very low levels. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the NTP teamed up to assess the growing body of research and they believe there is cause for concern.
While everyone hashes out the toxicological details, we’re erring on the side of caution and are committed to avoiding it.
Want your home to be Honestly Free of BPA? Here are the most important steps you can take:
Avoid canned foods and beverages. This is the number one exposure source for most people, so by taking this one simple step, you go a long way towards protecting your family’s health.
Avoid polycarbonate plastic, especially for food and beverages. Avoid plastics labelled with the number 7 in the chasing arrows symbol and the letters PC. (Not all #7 plastics are polycarbonate, so ask the manufacturer if you’re unsure.) When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
Have any questions about BPA? Let us know in the comments. We’re always happy to help!
“Federal Register, Volume 77 Issue 137 (Tuesday, July 17, 2012).” Federal Register, Volume 77 Issue 137 (Tuesday, July 17, 2012). Web. 09 Apr. 2014. <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-07-17/html/2012-17366.htm>.
Palanza, Paola, Laura Gioiosa, Frederick S. Vom Saal, and Stefano Parmigiani. “Effects of Developmental Exposure to Bisphenol A on Brain and Behavior in Mice.” Environmental Research 108.2 (2008): 150-57. Print.
Palanza, Paola, Kembra L. Howdeshell, Stefano Parmigiani, and Frederick S. Vom Saal. “Exposure to a Low Dose of Bisphenol A during Fetal Life or in Adulthood Alters Maternal Behavior in Mice.” Environmental Health Perspectives 110.S3 (2002): 415-22. Print.
Saal, Frederick S. Vom, Benson T. Akingbemi, Scott M. Belcher, Linda S. Birnbaum, D. Andrew Crain, Marcus Eriksen, Francesca Farabollini, Louis J. Guillette, Russ Hauser, Jerrold J. Heindel, Shuk-Mei Ho, Patricia A. Hunt, Taisen Iguchi, Susan Jobling, Jun Kanno, Ruth A. Keri, Karen E. Knudsen, Hans Laufer, Gerald A. Leblanc, Michele Marcus, John A. Mclachlan, John Peterson Myers, Angel Nadal, Retha R. Newbold, Nicolas Olea, Gail S. Prins, Catherine A. Richter, Beverly S. Rubin, Carlos Sonnenschein, Ana M. Soto, Chris E. Talsness, John G. Vandenbergh, Laura N. Vandenberg, Debby R. Walser-Kuntz, Cheryl S. Watson, Wade V. Welshons, Yelena Wetherill, and R. Thomas Zoeller. “Chapel Hill Bisphenol A Expert Panel Consensus Statement: Integration of Mechanisms, Effects in Animals and Potential to Impact Human Health at Current Levels of Exposure.” Reproductive Toxicology 24.2 (2007): 131-38. Print.
Saal, Frederick S. Vom, Susan C. Nagel, Benjamin L. Coe, Brittany M. Angle, and Julia A. Taylor. “The Estrogenic Endocrine Disrupting Chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and Obesity.” Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology 354.1-2 (2012): 74-84. Print.
What do leftover cabbage, wilted kale, and unused onion peels have in common? They all make easy, inexpensive, and naturally beautiful dyes for your Easter eggs! Plus, chances are you already have everything you need sitting right in your fridge.
By now you’re probably aware of the concerns that food dyes present and, while your Easter eggs may not pose the biggest threat, the natural option is safer and much more fun. This DIY also is a great learning opportunity for your kiddos to see how many beautiful colors can be derived straight from nature — the perfect kitchen experiment.
Hard boiled eggs
Brown onion skin
3 medium saucepans
3 Quart sized Mason jars
1. Chop your cabbage and kale, and peel away your onion skins. Or use whatever vibrant colored fruits and veggies you have on hand — think beets, blueberries, blackberries, orange peels, spinach.
2. Add each food type to its own pot and fill with enough water to cover. Measure a tablespoon of vinegar into each pot.
3. Place each pot over the stovetop and allow a boil. Bring down to a low heat and allow each to simmer for about 15-30 minutes. (If you don’t have enough pots, you can do this step separately and repeat for each different dye).
4. Heat each dye until it appears to be several shades darker than your desired hue. You can test a sample in a white cup or bowl to see the color’s saturation. Once you are satisfied, remove each mixture from heat and allow to cool.
5. Once cooled, strain each mixture into its own Mason jar. If you prefer your eggs to have a natural speckled effect, feel free to allow some of the food pieces to remain in your dye.
Your dye is ready!
1. Wipe each of your hard boiled eggs clean to make sure there are no particles on the outside of the shells.
2. One by one, divide your eggs among each jar of dye. Be careful not to crowd your eggs, as you may risk cracking them.
3. Place a lid on each of your jars and store them in the refrigerator to chill overnight. Natural dyes will take longer to set than your risky artificial dyes, so be patient! However, this step can be customized depending on the color saturation you are aiming for — try removing individual eggs as you go to get different shades of each color.
4. After all of your eggs have been removed, set them on a paper towel to dry. Refrigerate your eggs and keep them on hand for a quick and nutritious snack, or arrange them into a naturally festive centerpiece!
Tip: Make sure to compost all of your vegetable scraps!
What do you use to make natural dyes? Share your favorites in the comments below!