More thoughts on BPA

Please forgive me in advance because this is a long entry for a blog. If you truly want to learn more about issues swirling around BPA, then please read it all. I think you’ll find it quite interesting.

Well, I think this week alone, there have been three front page articles in the Washington Post regarding Bisphenol-A (BPA). I thought it might be worthwhile to jot down some additional thoughts for people to consider.

One of the biggest problems fueling the BPA controversy is the idea that the FDA’s guideline for maximum BPA consumption (currently 50 micrograms/kilogram of bodyweight) is too high. Some researchers believe that number is too high (while the FDA and other researchers currently think it’s correct). The media has taken to the story and practically implies that any BPA at all will probably kill you.

So, to put that number – 50 micrograms/kilogram of bodyweight – into context, I think it would be beneficial to compare the FDA’s BPA guidelines to some other chemicals that are found around town. First of all, it is important to realize that BPA is a lot more prevalent in products than perhaps many people think. Did you know that in addition to being found in polycarbonate bottles, BPA is used to line the interior of just about every soup can, every beer can, every soda can, every baby formula can, every canned green beans can, etc. There are a very, very few food manufacturers who use other chemical formulations to line the interior of their cans. Obviously, every can has to be lined with something to keep the food or beverage from coming into direct contact with the metal of the can. Without a lining, the can would begin rusting immediately (if it was steel or tin). Aluminum cans would start leaching aluminum into the food or beverage if not properly lined. So, all cans need to be lined. Eden Foods, for example, claims that their cans are not lined with BPA – but I can’t find out exactly what chemicals they are using to line their cans.

So, BPA is out there in all sorts of places that people don’t normally think of. The media focus has been on bottles made out of polycarbonate. The National Toxicology Program, which recently released its preliminary findings, was primarily focused on the effects of BPA on babies and pregnant women. That focus was based upon research (done on mice) that suggests babies may be less able to process and eliminate BPA than are adults. The focus therefore was on baby bottles. Furthermore, mothers have been told to sterilize their baby bottles in order to kill bacteria. Washing baby bottles with boiling water can exacerbate the migration of BPA from polycarbonate bottles. So, BPA’s effects on infants have come into focus.

So, let’s dig a little deeper. For reference purposes, let’s take a person who weighs 154 lbs (that would be 70 kilograms). The FDA’s guideline of 50 micrograms per kilogram means that a 154 lb person should have a maximum daily BPA intake of not more than 3,500 micrograms of BPA (which is equivalent to 3.5 milligrams). Exactly how much is one microgram? Let’s say you put one microgram of BPA into a liter of water. The concentration of BPA would be one microgram per liter. That is the equivalent to one part per billion. That is a very small amount. It is the equivalent of one second in 32 years!! So 3,500 micrograms is equivalent to about one hour in 32 years.

The real question is how much is too much. Is it 3,500 micrograms? Is it 1,000 micrograms? Is it 100 micrograms? Should it be zero micrograms? I can assure you that I don’t know the answer to that question – nor do any of the scientists who have performed the studies. But, I do know that there are all sorts of chemicals that we consume every single day. Some are a lot more toxic than others. Let’s look at lead (a heavy metal that EVERYONE AGREES IS VERY, VERY TOXIC). EPA regulations say that that maximum amount of lead in tap water should be no more than 15 micrograms per liter (or 15 parts per billion). By the way, the FDA – which regulates bottled water says that maximum number for lead should be 10 micrograms per liter. So when you read that bottled water doesn’t even have to meet EPA levels – you know someone is being dishonest!! FDA bottled water regulations are considerably stricter than EPA regulations for tap water.

Does that mean that if your water has 12 micrograms/liter of lead in it, that it’s ok? In a sense yes, and, in other ways, no. I think if you asked most scientists, they would say that 12 is better than 15, but 2 would be better than 12, and zero would be better than 2. Same analysis goes for such tasty things as arsenic or chromium or cyanide. Did you know that the EPA’s maximum contaminant level for cyanide in tap water is 200 micrograms per liter ( while the FDA’s limit for cyanide in bottled water is 100 micrograms per liter). If you drink 3 liters of tap water in a day, that would mean that you could ingest up to 600 micrograms of cyanide and that would be within the limits of acceptability from a risk standpoint according to the EPA. Seems kinda crazy to me. Arsenic’s maximum is 10 micrograms per liter. These are some very toxic chemicals, yet the maximum is not zero.

The point is that it would be virtually impossible from a public policy standpoint to set all these levels to zero. Further confusing the issue is what exactly is zero? There are 1,000 nanograms in one microgram. If you said the limit for lead was one microgram per liter – that’s still 1,000 nanograms. Is that OK? Why not zero? One nanogram is equivalent to one second in 32,000 years!! When do you say enough is enough? That is truly a public policy issue.

So, let’s go back to BPA. How much is too much? Is the amount of BPA in polycarbonate bottles too much? If I told you that there was 1 microgram of BPA in a 5 gallon water bottle, would you switch to a glass bottle or a PET bottle? Remember the 3,500 micrograms? Remember the 600 micrograms of cyanide that the EPA would say is OK? Is BPA more toxic than cyanide? I kinda doubt that but you can and should reach your own conclusions. How many micrograms of BPA are in that can of soup you opened last night? How about those three beer cans you had last night? Drinking diet cola? Yep. Heck, just like with pharmaceuticals in tap water – could there be BPA in tap water? I believe the answer is yes – scientists have found very small amounts in tap water – probably less than 1 microgram per liter. But, what if it was 400 nanograms? Would that be OK?

In a sense, the current controversy surrounding BPA, makes that chemical out to be worse than cyanide or lead or arsenic or any one of a number of extremely toxic chemicals. My guess is that the FDA will review all of the available studies on BPA and determine that it is safe at a particular level. Will the “safe” level remain at 50 micrograms per kg of bodyweight? I don’t know. Maybe they set the new level at 40 micrograms or 25 micrograms or even 10 micrograms per kilogram. If they do that, then polycarbonate water bottles will be deemed safe. If they set a level for bottled water and tap water, the bottles will be deemed safe. Will the controversy go away? I don’t know, but probably not. Think back to the cyanide and arsenic examples. I don’t read anything about the toxicity of cyanide or arsenic in the morning paper – but it’s still very much allowable in food and water.

The bottom line is that every person and every family has to assess the risks and make decisions. I know one thing for certain. We use reverse osmosis technology to remove virtually 99.5% of ALL contaminants from the water. There’s no cyanide, arsenic or lead in our water. That is a good thing. I don’t want to consume more than my fair share of chemicals any more than you do. As a company, DrinkMore Water gives you options. We have BPA-free glass bottles. We have BPA-free plastic (PET #1) bottles. We have FDA-approved polycarbonate bottles. It’s your choice. I wish people would think the same way about the water they drink and the food they eat – and all the chemicals that can be found inside food and water – as they do about BPA. Because if they did, they would only drink DrinkMore Water.

Oh, and by the way, I bring home my DrinkMore Water in polycarbonate bottles. I’ve done so for 15 years, I have three kids, and I have my choice of whatever I want – glass, BPA-free plastic, or polycarbonate.

Told you it was interesting!

If you are interested in yet another perspective, I thought this article was more balanced than most. It just came out this weekend. Check it out: