Blog,  Immune System

BPA Plastics…Are They Safe?

At this point, most of us are aware of BPA.

BPA is an endocrine disrupting substance whose effects were actually discovered in 1977 but conclusive research did not determine its toxic effects until almost 30 years later. BPA was finally pulled from plastic baby bottles in 2008.  BPA and other chemicals like it, mimic the actions of naturally occurring hormones in our body.

The Early Years

I remember in my first year of practice in 2003, when I was very nervous to share my opinion, I wrote an article on the negative effects of BPA. The article was distributed to my then small newsletter list, and I got an email back from a patient that was unhappy with my voice as she felt as I was fear mongering and spreading propaganda.

I was devastated at the time, as my ego was fragile and easily influenced.  The email took me by surprise…and I spent some time thinking, could I be fear mongering?

I then spent the next 2 weeks finding out everything I could about BPA. It was years before the conclusive evidence would be found, but my practical brain was convinced that there was enough evidence to say that BPA was not a good thing. My practical brain also said, why would I expose myself to a questionable product when there are so many safe alternatives.  This is still the stance I take today.

My job as a clinician is to give you practical advice from all of this new scientific data. If you look at the track record of getting BPA removed, these other questionable substances are not going to be removed any time soon. We as consumers need to read between the lines, and do as much as we can to protect ourselves.

How Can We Protect Ourselves?

The bottom line is these plastics are leaching hormone disrupting chemicals that are being consumed on a daily basis. If that is not bad enough, our children and infants are getting large dose of these chemicals in baby bottles, sippy cups, plates, food storage containers and plastic water bottles. In this day and age with hormone mimicking chemicals everywhere it is important to do what we can. While it is definitely important to not microwave or heat things in plastic, you will see that the latest research is showing that you don’t need heat the plastic for some of these compounds to be leached.

BPA, the most studied estrogen-mimicking compound, has been linked to a long list of maladies, including to asthma, cancer, infertility, low sperm count, heart disease, liver problems, and ADHD. In some cases, the effects appear to be handed down, meaning the chemical reprograms an individual’s genes and causes disease in future generations.

You are thinking…great, BPA is now banned from our plastics in Canada. I always drink out of BPA free plastic. I’m safe right?

Not so much…

Am I Safe Now?

Scientists are now discovering that these plastics are still leaching compounds that may in fact be more endocrine disrupting than the BPA.

Between 2010 and 2013, scientists from CertiChem, a private lab in Austin, tested 50 reusable BPA-free plastic containers. In most cases, they used a line of human breast cancer cells that multiplies in the presence of estrogen, as well as substances like BPA that mimic the female hormone. The researchers found that some products leached hormone-altering chemicals even before being exposed to conditions, such as heat from a dishwasher or microwave, that are known to unlock potentially toxic chemicals inside plastic. And most containers did so under some circumstances. After exposure to the type of ultraviolet rays that are found in sunlight (UVA) and used to sterilize baby bottles (UVC), more than three-quarters of the containers tested released synthetic estrogens. The chart below shows the results for a sampling of products before and after UV exposure.

While the study did not name the chemicals or how they exactly affect human health, it is well known that these hormone altering chemicals can be damaging even at low levels.

What Can Be Done?

With having young children myself, I know how tempting it is to purchase the Dora or princess plastic plate or the cheap plastic sippy cup that they will inevitably get lost at preschool or the park.  On the other hand, I spend most of my practice undoing hormonal imbalances and see the damage that our lifestyles and exposure are having on our health. I feel it is very important for us to minimize our exposure to these chemicals. The best way to do this is to minimize your exposure to plastics of any kids and switch to using stainless steel or glass water bottles and storage containers, stainless steel sippy cups, baby utensils and plates.

You can find these at your local grocery store or specialty baby shop.

Are There Hormone-Altering Chemicals in Your Plastic Bottle?

Table: Estrogenic activity before and after UV exposure


Type of plastic

Before UV exposure

After UV exposure

Baby bottles      
AVENT Polyethersulfone (PES) Not tested Very High
Born Free Polyethersulfone (PES) Not tested Very High
Green to Grow Polyethersulfone (PES) Negative Moderate
Evenflo Tritan Not tested Moderate
Weil Baby Tritan Negative Moderate
Sippy cups      
CamelBak, blue* Tritan High High
Weil Baby Tritan Negative Mild
Water bottles      
CamelBak, black Tritan Not tested Very High
CamelBak, blue Tritan Not tested High
Nalgene, blue* Tritan Negative Mild
Nalgene, green* Tritan Negative Negative
Topas Cyclic Olefin Copolymer (COC) Negative Negative
Zeonor Cyclic Olefin Polymer (COP) Negative Negative
Other products      
Crate & Barrel wine glasses, red* Acrylic High High
Disposable cup Polystyrene (PS) High Not tested
Lock & Lock food containers Tritan Moderate Moderate
Clamshell takeout container* Polystyrene (PS) Mild Not tested

*Tested using BG-1 cells

Source: George D. Bittner, et al, Journal of Environmental Health

Chart by Jaeah Lee

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