However much we’d all prefer to whip up delectable meals each day using local ingredients and wash them down with fresh water gurgling from a natural brook nearby, sometimes it's easier to grab a can of soup off the shelf, a bottle of water from the fridge, and call it dinner. But that soup can and water bottle are riddled with bisphenol A, a.k.a. BPA. It's the main compound in epoxy resin linings, present in plastics and canned goods, has been found in studies to lead to cancer, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and is especially harmful to babies and children. The FDA, after years of proclaiming BPA's harmlessness, is now on the bandwagon along with fearful consumers and researchers, committing $30 million in federal stimulus funds to investigate the consequences of consuming BPA; it will release a report at the end of next year.
A Reuter's article yesterday cited Hugh Taylor, a Yale researcher, for publishing studies that show BPA fundamentally alters the way DNA functions, removing groups of carbon molecules that normally bond to each strand of DNA, thereby making it impossible for genes to turn on or off. While he asserts the detrimental effects of BPA, especially on children in utero (ingestion of BPA at that stage of development could lead to cancer later on in life), he recognizes that a perfect BPA experiment can't be conducted—we humans already have too much of it in our systems. Nonetheless, experiments on pregnant mice show that BPA ingestion affects sexual development.
Proponents of the chemical say it saves lives by preventing food poisoning and, furthermore, passes right through the human body on a daily basis—it's like you're not ingesting anything. Opponents cite studies like Taylor's and advocate banning plastics and cans made with BPA altogether. Of course, the trouble there is a monetary one—Eden Farms uses BPA-free cans, but they cost 14 percent more than traditional ones. We'll see what the FDA comes up with in 2011.
Until then, avoid that water bottle. And that soup can: In fact, take a look at what you'd miss if you eliminated canned food from your diet. You could probably do without that canned cheeseburger, no?