Is BPA-free plastic really safe?

PureBot water bottle claims to be EA-free, including BPA and all similar chemicals

New research raises concerns that BPA-free plastics are not as safe as we might think. While they may not contain bisphenol A, many BPA-free plastics release other chemicals that mimic estrogen, researchers claim.

In a new study published online March 2, a US research team tested more than 500 BPA-free consumer products for chemicals similar to BPA. They found that 92 percent of the products released potentially hazardous compounds after undergoing wear and tear, such as through dishwashing, microwaving, or exposure to sunlight.

The research reports that many BPA-free products, from baby bottles to plastic food wrap, had more estrogenic activity -- which is linked to birth defects, cancers, and other health issues -- than those products containing BPA. It's still unclear, however, whether or not humans are harmed by the chemicals since most studies have been done in mice and rats. 

Austin-based company PlastiPure claims to be "the first and only company" developing plastic materials free of estrogenic activity (EA), including BPA and all similar chemicals. The new plastic technology is used for the PureBot water bottle, a 24-ounce (about 709 ml) EA-free container that retails for $7.99 (€5.71). The company aims to see its technology used in other types of plastics, from sippy cups to toys. In October 2010, the company announced that it had received two grants from the National Institute of Health and the National Science Foundation in the US for developing its new products.

If you have been living in Europe or the US it is highly probable that you have BPA in your system, as 90% of Europeans and Americans have detectable amounts. Plus 3,175 million tons of BPA are produced annually, and BPA ends up in a number of consumer goods including polycarbonate plastic products (reusable water bottles, sippy cups, leftover containers, baby bottles, toys), the lining of canned foods, baby formula and beverages, pizza boxes, and other fast food containers. However, much less is known about the chemicals used to replace BPA in plastic products.

Here are some steps you can take now to reduce your exposure to BPA and harmful chemicals:

  • Try to stay away from receipts (sometimes they can be emailed) and carbonless paper, which often contain BPA. If you handle a large amount of receipts, wash your hands often and try wearing gloves.
  • Avoid drinking canned sodas or beers.
  • Opt for bottled waters and other plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2 and #4 on the bottom and avoid #7, which are usually made with polycarbonate (PC) plastics.
  • Do not microwave plastics, either BPA or BPA-free, and don't leave your plastics sitting in the sunlight.

Access the study here: