Exposure to the chemical Bisphenol A, or BPA, through canned foods and other food packaging can be significantly reduced with simple dietary changes, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute, a breast cancer research group.
BPA is a chemical that is often used in clear, shatterproof plastics, such as baby bottles and food-storage containers, as well as the liners of metal food cans. Studies have shown BPA can leach from plastic and cans into food.
Dozens of laboratory studies have also linked BPA exposure to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, obesity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies.
The “Food Packaging and Bisphenol A” study tracked five Bay Area families for eight days in January 2010, collecting urine samples from family members after each individual ate normally. Participating families each had four members: an adult male, an adult female and two children between the ages of 3 and 11. Each family regularly ate meals prepared outside the home, including canned foods, canned sodas and frozen dinners; they also microwaved foods in plastic.
For the study, the families then switched to a modified diet of fresh organic meals and snacks for three days. Prepared and delivered by a caterer that avoided using foods packaged in plastic or cans, the meals were stored in glass and stainless steel containers. Urine samples were collected during the families’ diet change and after they went back to eating as normal. Urinary BPA levels decreased by more than 60% on average within three days of switching to a diet with minimal canned foods or plastic food packaging, the study found.
“One of the main sources of BPA is believed to be food packaging, but there weren’t any studies that had actually looked at having people eat a normal diet and then stop eating foods that had been wrapped in BPA-containing products,” said Janet Gray, Ph.D., director of the Program in Science, Technology and Society at Vassar College and science advisor to the Breast Cancer Fund. Gray co-authored “Food Packaging and Bisphenol A,” a peer-reviewed study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
“We wanted to be able to ask the question: Could we have fairly simple changes in people’s lives, both adults and children, that would alter their exposure and body burden of BPA?” Gray said.
Switching to fresh foods decreased BPA levels very quickly.
“That’s one of the most important findings of this study.”