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This class was awesome.  So thank you to all of you guys!  Yay you!  I wanted to include a few pictures of my poster because if it’s to be reused I won’t have any to share ever again!  I’ve learned from some of the other presenters in this course that a big step is just ‘letting go’ of material goods.  Being too good of a consumer is nothing to be proud of and I’m teaching irrational habits to my children!

So pictures are a wonderful way to go!  Taking photos of the things I want so I can have them forever without the mess.  I’ve started to do this with some (but not all) of my children’s artwork as well.  Because they create a TON of it.  Anywho…

Here are my three super kids in front of the poster.  The one on the far right made this poster twice as hard to put together than it should have been.

Also the can in front is an industrial sized Ravioli can that we were saving to use as a camp stove.  Turns out Ravioli’s had some of the highest BPA’s tested.

I felt this was the most important to the course and this project.  It seemed the environmental effects of BPA were rarely talked about.  And the more research I did the more I realized it was a serious concern that should be addressed.  Anything that messes with the developmental cycle of animals in the wild that WE put there should be evaluated and NOT dismissed.

Many people thought that these may have been exaggerated risks.  But even if there is a grain of truth (which research provides evidence of concrete proof) this shouldn’t occur for a product that could easily not be used to package our food stuffs.

Thanks again everyone!  It was such a fun class and I took away a wealth of insight from our group discussions.

Also…. I wanted to share with everyone the wild garlic that I didn’t get to bring in to the last day of class.  : (   Here’s a picture though.

This is where my youngest son got a small cut and his older brother decided to try a “natural bandaid”.

And Morels we found on the same trip.

As my final blog I wanted to focus on how it effected my life, this project. Almost naturally we’ve given up nearly all of our household canned foods. In fact I came across this fascinating chart on canned foods, I wished I had found it earlier so to include on my poster

I had a lot of people ask me about safe allowances of BPA found in foods.  It really hasn’t been that extensively studied, but it’s measured in parts per billion…. which is just saying  it’s always going to be small.  But even small amounts over long periods of time can be dangerous.

One thing I wanted to make clear was that there were environmental effects to this.  BPA can leach into soils, groundwater, and even be found in the air!  It’s literally all around us.   This means it has effects on fish, amphibians, invertebrates, mammals… life forms other than us.  And similar effects as well, as a fake estrogen it’s disrupting the life cycles of all sorts of organisms.

Add to this that these plastics are notoriously difficult to recycle and you’ve got suddenly an entire landfill leaching toxic plastic chemicals into our environments!  It really is a curious thought why companies even use this type of plastic at all.  If it has harmful biological effects, and can’t be recycled in plastics.  Where is the value in such a destructive product?

Well the value is that it’s cheap.  And large companies only care about the profits.  An unfortunate side of big business is a lack of care.

I have come across a lot of BPA propaganda stating its safety. The FDA has repeatedly publicly announced the safety of bisphenol A. Currently they have a list of precautionary guidelines, but still consider the chemical safe at low levels for human consumption. This really doesn’t come as much of a surprise to me. The U.S. government isn’t in the business of making waves for giant corporations like the chemical companies creating and encouraging the use of BPA. But the FDA is taking baby steps in the right direction.

I had mentioned in a previous blog that Eden Foods is currently the only manufacturer of canned foods that refuses to use BPA epoxies to line the cans. They have found a pricier alternative with natural products but felt it was worth it to their consumers. If a small scale food manufacturer can find it in their pockets and hearts to discontinue the use of BPA then why can’t larger companies? Knowing the chemical’s risks and further potential risks it seems hardly the right decision to make and it only appeals to how much profit a company can make.
I was surprised to learn that even soda cans like Coca-Cola use epoxies containing BPA resin (although Coca-Cola phased out BPA from their plastic bottles). This particular bit of information has Coca-Cola’s shareholders up in arms saying that they have “failed to provide investors or consumers with sufficient evidence that it is taking steps to address these public health concerns”. After reading Earth Democracy by Vandana Shiva I was appalled at how unethical a company like Coca-Cola can become. They systematically stole water from some of the poorest people on the planet and polluted areas near their plants in India. The company agreed to hear the shareholder’s concerns and put to vote a proposal forcing them to disclose how they use BPA. BPA as a threat is generally a Global North concern, although it affects everyone. But the people consuming the most packaged foods and soda pops aren’t necessarily the same people Coca-Cola is stealing water from. It’s interesting to me how much a company like this is willing to listen to the concerns of the public. Whether it is through intense sit-ins in India against the thefts of their water or a simple voicing of shareholders concerns over the western problem of BPA. Obviously Coca-Cola is choosing to listen to their shareholders with little arm twisting because in the Global North BPA has become a public relations nightmare.

BPA is big business. According to ICIS, the world’s largest information provider for the chemical and oil industry, worldwide demand is growing for polycarbonate plastics (which contain BPA) at a rate of 6-10% a year. (http://www.icis.com/Articles/2003/04/24/193606/product-profile-bisphenol-a.html) More that 6 billion pounds of BPA is produced each year and 65% of that is used in plastics, 30% for epoxy resins like the liners in canned goods. Nearly all of BPA produced is intended to come in contact with our food stuffs. The interesting thing about this plastic is that it isn’t even considered recyclable and are generally not accepted at recycling centers because of their difficulty to recycle. So what’s the point of even pushing this type of plastic on consumers if its problems are twofold? The problem comes from how cheap this plastic is to manufacture, which leads to a bigger profit for the chemical companies as well as the purchasing companies. It feels seedy and unethical to me, to be poisoning the earth as well as your customers living on it.

The idea that Bisphenol A can have serious effects on our world’s children is alarming. As a mother of three I am faced with studies that have some pretty depressing conclusions and questions. Childhood diabetes, obesity, behavioral problems? These all sound like a nightmare for parenting and the thought that it’s possible these are all linked to not just the food we are putting into our children’s bodies but also how those foods are packaged is a heavy burden on a parent’s conscience.

Because BPA is a mock estrogen it’s no surprise that it would have effects in utero on children, particular females. One study found a correlation between BPA in the womb and girls born with more “aggressive and hyperactive behaviors”. The boys had no noticeable effect. This is alarming to say the least, this chemical is changing the makeup of our future generation’s personalities. I’m not imagining a generation of fight club girls but the idea that we’re dealing with behavior problems that could last a lifetime is scary. Any kind of chemical that we feed our children that will have lasting neurological effects is akin to a death sentence for our future earth.

Since early human development is vulnerable to the effects of BPA we must be adamant about how we use plastics and resins. Bisphenol A is found in baby formula, plastic bottles, sippy cups, and plastic dinnerware. Canned foods are a staple in many households and the alternatives can be expensive for working families with children. As a parent the responsibility is almost overwhelming. Cutting out plastic in daily life is difficult, but do-able. The bigger question is though, why is it even being done this way at all? If alternative plastics are available at a negligible cost, especially in comparison to the future effects, why isn’t it being done? My research has shown for every article speaking out against BPA there are just as many proclaiming its safety. I know that the chemical companies and food manufacturers have money invested in BPA as a “safe” product, but it seems unreasonable to me to keep force feeding it to the public and directly to children.

The facts on the effects of BPA on human disease are confusing to decipher. There is a sea of evidence pointing to this or that and it can be a bit overwhelming with conflicting data. What is known is that BPA is that it’s a chemical that imitates the human hormone estrogen and that it’s found in the bodies of nearly everyone in the United States. According to a study released by the CDC in 2005 95% of those tested in the United States had BPA detected in their urine in consistent amounts. Because BPA is metabolized quickly in the system this shows that there is a steady stream of BPA being consumed and excreted through our bodies.

BPA as an estrogen copycat can lead to can lead to significant problems from reproductive, developmental, immunological, neurological, and even cancer according to the World Resources Institute. In animal testing BPA is often given in low doses and shown to have adverse effects. Lower doses than what was even found in human urine while effects were still measurable.

So what kind of health effects does BPA have on mammals like humans? Concretely BPA has been linked in studies to heart disease and certain cancers. BPA however as an endocrine disruptor has been suspected as a cause of human disease like abnormal development of sexual organs, neurobehavioral problems, autism, type 2 diabetes, obesity, as well as prostate and breast cancer. In fact in one study those with higher levels of BPA were found to have 2.4 times the likelihood of having type 2 diabetes than those with low doses.
Although the health effects on adults aren’t negligible, in comparison to the effects found in children they could almost be considered as much. Because of the chemical makeup of BPA the effects are surprisingly devastating on developing fetuses and children. These are particularly vulnerable times of development in the human body and changes made at those critical points can alter the outcome of the end product as an adult. This is alarming when it’s taken into consideration that BPA has been found in high levels in amniotic fluid, breast milk, cans of formula, and the baby bottles themselves. All of what is transferred to the fetus in development is a result of what the mother is consuming but the potential for harm is there.

BPA is an ingredient in polycarbonate plastic as well as epoxy resigns. This means that we can find BPA in so many things from the lining of cans (like canned vegetables) to plastic drinking bottles. The harm comes when BPA is leached into the food products we consume, leaching made worse when the plastics are heated. BPA is an environmental estrogen or “endocrine disruptor” because it mimics the estrogen hormone in the body. DDT is also an endocrine disruptor. It gained noteriety in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and which was later banned for use in the United States. So you can see what kind of chemical consumers are up against. What does this environnmetal estrogen actually do to the body? Well that’s what I’m saving for another blog.

So what can you do to limit or cut out your consumption of this unconsumable product of plastics manufacturing? With the recent public outcry for BPA free plastics many manufacturers are quick to advertise items that don’t have BPA to convince consumers of a products safety, but this isn’t all. One thing is to stay away from all foods in #7 or Other plastic categories. This label is found generally imbedded in the plastic at the bottom within a little recyclable triangle. In my research I’ve found that virtually no canned foods have strayed from the BPA epoxy’s used in manufacturing. Consumer Reports found through their testing that nearly all of the canned foods tested contained BPA. Even those labeled as ‘organic’ had significant levels, so there is no safety in choosing these health and environmentally ‘friendly’ items. Additionally even items labeled as BPA-free tested positive.

The easiest answer would be just to stay away from canned goods altogether along with the aforementioned plastics. But there is progress being made. One company Eden Foods has vowed to discontinue their use of BPA epoxy coatings on their canned foods, using instead a vegetable based resin. This isn’t without a significant cost though, the company pays 14% more for their cans from the supplier which is substantial for a small company. You can naturally see how this mark up could be passed on to the consumer who must choose at the grocery to pay quite a few cents more for a similar product, not always practical for every family.
However if larger companines express an interest in vegetable resin lined cans, and demand goes up, the price is likely to go down. Getting the larger companies in on the act while reducing their profit margin is an uphill battle.

My husband came to me one morning in a state of panic over a conversation he had heard on SportsTalk Radio.  He suggested we throw out all of our canned goods, particularly green beans since that was specifically being discussed.  The culprit:  BPA.  The reason:  we have three children.  “Really” I thought…. this on sports radio?  I’m clearly missing something here. And then in our recent edition of Consumer Reports I spotted it again! The green beans controversy was everywhere.

canned green beans

According to the spring 2010 edition of the magazine they had tested Del Monte Fresh cut Green Beans that had Bisphenol A (BPA) levels at 191 parts per billion. This is alarmingly high in contrast to frozen green beans at 1ppb. There is no recommended “safe limit” as of yet, but other countries have adopted limits for this chemical that the United States has barely raised an eyebrow at. I had heard some of he stir over BPA before.  I switched my platic bottles and my children aren’t formula born, bred, and fed so I didn’t worry over whether it was in their formula (however it’s been found in there).  But the BPA controversy making its way between Chief’s games and K-state basketball on a sports radio had me concerned. I did a little research and was floored at how much I had been missing.

plastic bottles

BPA is a chemical that has been noted as a potential hazard since the 1930′s! And it’s hidden in plastics that we use everyday. From drinking cups, to toys, to the linings of our canned foods. We are essentially consuming this chemical with many of us left in the dark to it’s effects. This rings to me of the crusade that Rachel Carson was on in sixties. She brought to our attention how chemicals that make civilized life easier are wreaking havoc on our systems. As a parent I’m naturally concerned with what I’m putting into my children’s mouths that may cause them problems in the future. Which is exactly this topic is so important to me. I would like to explore the why’s, who’s, and what’s of BPA. Hopefully this brand of informed citizenship will provide a platform for everyone reading to learn as much as I will.

various plastics

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