You may have seen the words BPA and paraben-free printed on various lotions or plastic products – but what does it even mean?
It is especially important for couples who are trying to conceive (TTC), pregnant moms, babies and children to avoid being exposed to harmful chemicals and toxins, but what exactly should you be watching out for and how do you choose the right products?
Parabens are often used as preservatives in some cosmetics and skin-care products
What are parabens?
Parabens are chemicals that are used as a preservative in many products we are unaware of, including cosmetics, baby toiletries, deodorants, shampoos, conditioners and skincare products.
The reason parabens are used is because it is cheap and is a highly effective preservative that stops molds and bacteria growing — to prevent harm to the user.
The use of parabens is also to help prolong the product’s shelf-life and so that it does not have to be refrigerated.
But some critics believe that such chemicals like parabens can interfere with the body’s hormones, namely reproductive hormones such as estrogen and testosterone.
The possible health risks of using products that contain parabens include:
- Chronic diseases
- Developmental disorders
- Fertility problems
- Premature birth
- Birth defects
- Deficient sperm
- Metabolic disease
- Bone density
Although it is still unclear what exact level of chemical exposure might pose a health risk to humans, parabens are typically used at levels between 0.01% and 0.3% and have been deemed safe in cosmetic products at levels as high as 25%.
Read the labels of the products before you buy to avoid parabens
How to choose paraben-free products
Since there are no conclusive studies to show the confirmed health risks from being exposed to low doses of parabens, they are still widely used in beauty products and baby toiletries.
We might assume that the ingredients used in personal care and baby products are safe or else they wouldn’t be allowed to be sold to consumers, but according to David Andrews, Senior Scientist with the Environmental Working Group, pre-market safety testing is not usually done for cosmetics or personal care products.
“I know it was eye-opening for me — the lack of information on the health and safety of the chemicals that end up in our everyday products”, he shares.
But if you are worried about the potential harm it could cause you and your loved ones, there are many paraben-free alternatives available, especially baby products.
Refer to the labelling on baby products which will usually state whether they are paraben-free, and look out for the more common parabens such as:
BPA can be found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins
What is BPA?
BPA stands for Bisphenol A, which is an industrial chemical that is used to make certain plastics and resins, including water bottles, baby bottles, sippy cups, and to line the cans used for canned foods.
Epoxy resins that are used to coat the inside of metal products (food cans and bottle tops) and even water supply lines may also contain BPA.
According to some research, it is discovered that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA — this includes baby formula cans.
Possible health risks associated with exposure to BPA may cause harmful effects to the brain; behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, babies and young children; and blood pressure to be elevated.
Dr Jen Landa, M.D, an Ob/Gyn and hormone-replacement therapy specialist, explains that BPA was shown in studies to increase growth of fibroid tumors in the uterus and could interfere with fertility treatments.
It was also linked to the development of diabetes or a heart attack and may even increase the risk of breast cancer in some people.
Since BPA is a synthetic estrogen (xenoestrogen) it could possibly lead to hormonal imbalances and cause the surge of estrogen to go into overdrive which may result in:
- Weight issues
- Poor sleep
Food cans are lined with BPA-containing resin
How to avoid using BPA
Although BPA can be found in numerous products, it is not impossible to try to minimize your BPA exposure by following these preventive measures:
Use BPA-free products
There are more BPA-free products available in the market nowadays, so remember to look for products which are labelled as “BPA-free”.
Some plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 might also be made with BPA, so you would want to avoid that.
Cut back on cans
Most food cans are lined with BPA-containing resin, so try to limit your intake of canned food, or look for the “BPA-free” label from certain brands.
According to Dr Landa, recent studies have showed that BPA levels were a whopping 1221% higher in people who had consumed canned soup for five days, as compared to people who had fresh soup during the same period of research.
Avoid heating plastic and styrofoam
Do not heat up styrofoam or plastic containers in the microwave which are not meant to be used more than once (for example, butter tubs), because the plastic may break down and allow BPA to be transferred into your food.
A Harvard Medical School health publication says that when food is wrapped in plastic (such as cling-wrap) or placed in a plastic container and microwaved, BPA may leak into the food.
Opt for alternatives to plastic
Instead of using plastic containers to store your food and liquids, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers instead.
Leftover food should also be stored in non-plastic containers, if possible, or at least in BPA-free containers.
Say no to plastic bottles
Instead of drinking from plastic water bottles that don’t have a recycle code of 1, 2 or 5, you should invest in a reusable, BPA-free, stainless steel or glass water bottle.
But if you still prefer to use a plastic water bottle, try to avoid drinking from ones that have been frozen, exposed to sunlight or high temperatures.
Dump your plastic coffeemaker
Here’s a good reason to get yourself a lovely French press, because those automatic, plastic coffeemakers may also contain BPA.
Once heated, BPA can leech out from the plastic and straight into your coffee!
Don’t touch thermal paper receipts
Avoid handling any receipts that are printed on thermal paper because BPA is used in the dye for the printer ink.
It might be an odd request, but you can just ask the cashier to help put the receipt in the bag to minimize contact, or just not accept the receipt at all.
Do you use BPA and paraben-free products in your home? What are the ways you avoid exposing your family to harmful chemicals and toxins? Tell us by leaving a comment below
Also read: The real risk of chemicals in foods hurting your children
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore