No Room in the Womb for BPA

Your exposure to BPA is important to consider now that you're pregnant.


When you find out you're pregnant, everything supposedly changes. And you make a lot of changes—in your diet and lifestyle. And yet many seemingly insignificant habits remain and these can have a big impact on a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child.

What do you really know about bisphenol-A (BPA)?

Your exposure to BPA is probably not one of the things you set about changing. But you might want to rethink that. It's a frequent component of a wide variety of common consumer products and plastics. Unfortunately, BPA is quite adept at leaching out of things that contain it and into food, water, and our bodies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 93 percent of all Americans have bisphenol-A in their bloodstreams.

This is of concern for expectant moms and moms of young children because BPA is believed to mimic hormones and disrupt the endocrine system that's responsible for assuring proper fetal development. These mechanics are incredibly sensitive—hormones released in amounts as tiny as a tenth of a trillionth of a gram control the womb environment and fetal growth. No doubt that's why countless studies have associated exposure to BPA with a greater risk of reproductive and developmental disorders, and why the FDA has expressed concern about its possible effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands in fetuses and infants.

The good news is that BPA can't touch us unless we touch or ingest it. Here are the chief places it hides. Knowing these can help us steer clear—now and in the future:

Common Items that Contain BPA:

Food and beverage cans

What To Do: Many cans are lined with a protective resin that contains BPA, which easily migrates into whatever those cans contain. Substitute frozen, dried, and/or fresh varieties of the canned foods you normally consume. Or look for them in glass containers. Especially avoid acidic items like canned tomato products, fruits, and soda, which leach more BPA than low-acid foods.

Watch Out For: Cans labeled "BPA-free." Though nontoxic linings do exist, many BPA-free products simply use a substitute called bisphenol-S that appears to behave in much the same way. Check with the manufacturer.

Water bottles and other polycarbonate plastics

What to do: Use a metal or glass water bottle, and don't store or microwave your own or your children's food in hard plastic containers. Containers made from #2, #4, and #5 plastic are safer; glass and ceramic are even better. Skip hard plastic infant toys and teethers. And throw away all plastic baby bottles, children's sippy cups, and other similar products made prior to July 2012, when a ban on BPA in children's drinking containers was implemented.

Watch Out For: Metal bottles with a lining that defeats the purpose. Choose pure stainless steel bottles only.

Store receipts

What to do: Thermal papers like ATM, cash register, credit card, and other receipts contain BPA that's easily transferred to our skin when we handle them. Refuse receipts if possible. If they're needed, handle them quickly and isolate them in a small plastic bag. Wash your hands as soon as you can. Don't use hand sanitizer until you do—it increases BPA absorption. And never recycle thermal papers.

Watch Out For: Money. The tendency to stuff receipts into our wallets is creating a paper money supply contaminated by all the BPA that rubs off onto our cash when we do. Treat bills like receipts and handle with care.

For more than 20 years Healthy Child Healthy World, a non-profit whose mission is to empower families to make better, safer choices, has been protecting children from the harmful effects of toxic chemicals. We are seeing increased evidence of the impact of these chemicals found in everyday products on children's health. Through evidence-based information and up to date resources and programs, we help families, promote solutions, and influence policy.