Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is found in many plastics. Yes, it may even be in that plastic reusable water bottle you favor using. If you have containers at home you use for food prep and storage, there’s a risk these could contain BPAs, too.
That’s why many manufacturers make BPA-free plastic bottles and other products these days. These plastic items supposedly have no BPAs in them, but you can’t always assume they’re chemical-free. It takes being a smart shopper and consumer to truly avoid BPAs in your plastics.
If you’re still nervous about using household plastic items like bottles, you may wonder if there are better alternatives out there. For instance, are stainless steel bottles safer than BPA-free plastic ones? The general consensus is yes, since there’s no traces of BPA to be found in metal bottles.
In this article, we’ll explain more about BPAs, what BPA-free plastic is and how it gets that designation, and whether you should make the switch to stainless steel water bottles. If you currently use reusable plastic food bottles and containers, you don’t want to miss this article.
What Are BPAs?
BPAs are a type of chemical that are found in some polysulfones, epoxy resins, and polycarbonates. They’re also in most plastics. It’s been this way for many decades, since at least 1957. That was when BPAs began appearing in the commercial production of plastics and other items.
If you use a food container or water bottle that contains BPAs, there is the potential for the chemical to leak and accidental consumption to occur. Since you can’t see, smell, or really taste BPA, it’s hard to know if the chemical is in your food products.
Consumption becomes especially likely if you heat up said container or bottle. Freezing a bottle, as you might remember, isn’t as likely to cause BPAs to leak out. It can happen if your bottle doesn’t include a freezer-safe label, though.
According to the Mayo Clinic, if you were to ingest BPAs, there’s a chance of developing high blood pressure, prostate gland issues (mostly in children, infants, and even fetuses instead of adults), behavioral and brain changes, and other health maladies.
These health problems are usually due to long-term exposure rather than a single instance of consumption of BPAs. Still, if you were to use the same plastic bottle or container for years, that could be all it takes.
It’s unsure if BPAs can do more damage than what was outlined above. Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is staunchly researching the effects of BPAs on the human body. As of now, those results are inconclusive, but BPAs have already been proven to do enough damage.
What is BPA-Free Plastic?
While BPAs have been in regular production of commercial products for many years, it’s only in the past decade or so that the general population has realized its effects and made moves to bypass BPAs in plastic products. That’s why BPA-free plastic bottles and other food containers exist.
You should not assume that every reusable plastic water bottle on the market is BPA-free. To check if yours has any chemicals in its composition, you’ll want to look to the recycle code. We talked about this in our last article on freezing plastic and other types of water bottles. If you see any numbers besides three and seven, then your bottle should be BPA-free. If your bottle is labeled with a three or seven though, it may be time to think about replacing it. There could be BPAs within the plastic, which you could be ingesting without knowing it.
Is Food-Grade Plastic BPA-Free?
There’s another matter you may be curious about: food-grade plastic. As the name suggests, this is the plastic that is used to make food containers, including reusable plastic water bottles. The FDA manages and approves all food-grade plastic in the US.
According to Canadian manufacturer Great Western Containers, for plastic to be food-grade, “it cannot contain dyes, other additives or recycled plastic products deemed harmful to humans.” Some food-grade plastic is recycled. The recycled plastic for these containers must also pass FDA approval before it can be used in production.
Food-grade plastic is typically high-density polyethylene, known as HDPE. This type of plastic is adept at preventing chemicals from leaking into water bottles and other containers used for eating.
If plastic isn’t HDPE, then it’s often polyethylene terephthalate, which is referred to as PETE and sometimes PET. You won’t see reusable plastic water bottles made of PETE plastic, as it’s typically reserved for jelly jars, peanut butter jars, salad dressing bottles, and containers in that vein.
If you’re curious if your wattle bottle is HPDE food-grade plastic, just check the recycle code. It should have a two on it.
Since the FDA is the only regulatory body that approves whether plastics meet food-grade specifications in the US, if they say a piece of plastic is BPA-free, you can generally assume that to be true. If you really want to be on the safe side, though, you can always double-check the recycle code.
Is BPA-Free Plastic Really Safe?
Here’s where things get a little dicey. Men’s Journal did a big report on BPAs and other chemicals that can leak into water bottles and food containers. They shared some pretty interesting findings.
First, the FDA has said that it’s okay for adults to consume “low doses” of BPAs. According to the organization, this won’t lead to the symptoms we covered above.
That much is true, but for children, it’s different. That’s why the FDA blocked all sippy cups and baby bottles containing BPAs back in 2012. Some manufacturers have ignored this, though, grasping onto the data that it’s okay for adults to consume some BPAs. The products from these manufacturers may be marketed for kids and adults and claim to be BPA-free yet contain trace amounts of the chemical. It’s not wise for children of any age to consume BPAs.
As you’re starting to glean, then, BPA-free labels don’t always mean much. According to Men’s Journal, when CertiChem (a company that tests plastics) reviewed almost 500 plastics, the results were disheartening. CertiChem discovered that most of the plastics contained BPAs. Yes, even the ones that claimed to be BPA-free.
Even if you did have a reusable plastic water bottle or food container that was truly BPA-free, that’s just one chemical. There are others that could lead to issues with reproduction, promote obesity, potentially boost the chances of getting diabetes and certain cancers, and act like estrogen in both men and women.
One of these chemicals that causes the above is known as phthalates. In tests done on animals, those that were exposed to phthalates had decreased sperm quality. Men’s Journal cites research that picked up on a similar effect in people. Male fertility dropped by 20 percent in those who consumed phthalates in their plastics.
Are Metal Water Bottles the Better Alternative?
Metal water bottles are indeed the better alternative. These do not contain BPAs or phthalates, not even trace amounts. Therefore, you know that each time you sip your reusable water bottle, your health is not at risk.
That said, you should not buy a metal bottle with a plastic lining. This can contain BPAs, even if the bottle itself is made of metal. It’s also worth noting that some metal bottles do contain iron, aluminum, or nickel. These can leak into your water bottle. Unlike BPAs, which are generally tasteless, you might notice a slight metal flavor.
The amount of metals is insignificant enough that there should be no ill health effects. Also, if you’re worried that you could get Alzheimer’s from consuming aluminum, don’t sweat it. The Alzheimer’s Association themselves have disproven the rumored link between the development of Alzheimer’s and the metal.
There’s also no need to worry if you see a layer of crust on your metal water bottle after a few uses. This is just what happens depending on what you pour into the bottle. Sometimes hard water can cause this, too. Dishwasher cleaning or hand-washing ought to fix the issue. Otherwise, you could try filling the bottle with diluted vinegar, letting it sit overnight. Then you can wash the bottle out with baking soda and warm water.
Know the best water bottle you can use: The Best Water Bottle.
If you have any plastic bottles and containers in your home, then it’s crucial you understand more about bisphenol A, more often referred to as BPA. This chemical found in plastics can cause adverse health effects if consumed in high doses.
Food-grade plastics are those that are approved by the FDA for use in food preparation and consumption. These may be labeled as BPA-free, but don’t always believe what you read. Even bottles and other plastics with a recycle code may contain trace amounts of BPAs. If not, there’s always the chance they could contain other chemicals like phthalates.
That’s why it’s recommended you make the switch to metal water bottles. These have no such chemicals, so drinking out of them is always safe.