If you’ve bought anything made of plastic in the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that many plastics, especially food containers, re-usable water bottles, sippy cups, baby bottles and pacifiers are now labeled “BPA Free.”  So other than vaguely knowing that BPA must be bad–and that BPA Free is good, do you know what it is or why it’s bad? I didn’t so I decided to do some research.  Here’s what I learned:

BPA stands for Bisphenol A. It is an organic compound used in the making of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.  It helps to keep plastics lightweight, yet durable and strong.  It also makes them resistant to heat and shatterproof. BPA may be harmful to humans (and to animals) because it is an endocrine disruptor.  This means it mimics hormones, estrogen to be exact.

In laboratory tests, exposure to BPA was linked to mammary and prostate cancer as well as genital deformities and obesity in mice.  In fact, not only were the exposed mice affected, but the female fetuses of pregnant mice also were affected–up to 40% of the fetuses eggs were affected.  Because of it’s effect on the reproductive system, two more generations of mice could be affected from the primary mouse’s exposure to BPA.

Subsequent studies have proclaimed that the minimal exposure that humans have to BPA (drinking out of platic water bottles, baby bottles etc.) does not have negative health effects. These studies have also concluded that laboratory tests done on mice are not always representative of the effects the same substance would have on humans.  However, common sense tells me that what is bad for mice, is bad for any living creature.  And when it come to my children, I’d rather err on the side of caution.

Despite the fact that BPA is not as dangerous a substance as it was originally thought to be, many companies are choosing to be remove it from their “plastic recipe” to be on the safe side. As a mother and a consumer, I know that I will always choose a plastic product labeled “BPA Free” over one that isn’t. But it’s good to know that all the plastic products that my parents have used over the year, and all of the ones I’ve used up until recently, are very unlikely to have any ill-effects on my health, my children’s health or my grandchildren’s health.

Click here for tips and guidelines about using plastics safely.