A Common Chemical No-No

05.10.11 Pervasive BPA can be risky for moms-to-be.


The chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) is so pervasive in our environment that it's hard to avoid. But you should try. A synthetic estrogen, it has been shown to be potentially harmful in pregnancy, increasing the risk of cancer, obesity and infertility in lab animals.

BPA is found in plastic household items, cigarette smoke, some plastic baby bottles and in cash-register receipts, as well as a variety of food packaging, especially cans, from which it can leach into food. According to the group Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, 95 percent of dollar bills test positive for hormone-disrupting BPA, probably because they're carried in wallets with BPA-coated receipts.

A study of 389 pregnant women—whose findings were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives—showed that those who ate canned vegetables daily had 44 percent more BPA in their urine than moms-to-be who didn't eat canned veggies. Cashiers, whose jobs require handling BPA-loaded receipts, averaged 55 percent higher BPA levels than teachers, who usually have low levels.

Women exposed to tobacco smoke also had higher than average concentrations of BPA.

To minimize your BPA exposure:

  • Decline receipts at ATMs, gas pumps and other machines.

—Shari Roan