What is BPA and is it dangerous?
The ‘big 3’ in a customer driven organization is providing ‘quality, cost and on-time delivery’. The latter aside, perceived quality can be very different from the actual quality a consumer is receiving. An online search for the term ‘reusable water bottles’ will bring up a wide array of companies, around 90% of which use the term “BPA free” concerning their reusable bottles.
Since a popular reusable bottle was linked to the chemical BPA (Bisphenol A), the term has been widely reported and has quickly escalated into mainstream media.
BPA is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin. The plastic is used in some food and drink containers and the resin is used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans and metal water bottles. There are mixed reports as to the dangers of BPA but it is generally agreed that the chemical does transfer across to food and liquid in older food and beverage containers. The NTP (National Toxicology Program) released a report with their findings, in which they expressed concern with BPA’s effect on the human body, and in particular, on infants and children. NTP Associate Director John Bucher Ph.D concluded that “the possibility that BPA may affect human development cannot be dismissed”.
So it is for good reason that consumers are turning towards products that state they are BPA Free. Despite the fact that the published research is still rather inconclusive as to the detrimental effects of BPA, it is prudent to avoid the chemical wherever possible until a definitive conclusion has been made.
BPA and Water Bottles
When a new bottle is made, testing procedures are undertaken in laboratory conditions to ensure the beverage within the container will stay chemical free. A reputable, certified testing lab will conduct a leaching test at 90C (194F) for 3 days in order to simulate usage and ageing. These are extreme conditions for the bottle and cap. After this time the contents of the bottle are tested for contaminates. It is at this crucial point where labs can differ in the results they present.
Different labs will have different limits as to what they can detect. For a given sample, one lab may not detect BPA due to their testing limits while another will detect BPA every time. Generally BPA is tested in parts per billion or parts per million (abbreviated ppb & ppm). A comparison of results from four major labs showed their testing limits varied greatly. Below is a table showing from top to bottom the most effective testing limits found to the least effective.
|Company A (USA)
|Company B (China)
|Company C (USA)
|Company D (China)
Company A is able to detect BPA if only 0.25 ppb is found, yet Company D would not be able to detect BPA if the chemical was found to be under 10,000 ppb. These are two modern labs providing results used as certification on consumer goods, yet one is 40,000 times as accurate as the other. It is scary to think that one “BPA Free” bottle could potentially have 40,000 times as much BPA in it as another marked as “BPA Free”, depending on which labs were used to do the testing.
Health Canada and the EFSA Europe have set the following Tolerable Daily Intake for BPA limits per kilogram of bodyweight.
Europe – TDI of 0.05 milligram/kg body weight (eg 70kg person = 3.5mg TDI per day)
Canada – TDI of 0.025 milligram/kg body weight
A 600ml bottle tested by Company D could theoretically leach up to 6 milligrams of BPA into the water over the testing period (enough to be in excess of the TDI for anyone weighing less than 120kg or 264lbs), and still be called “BPA Free” according to that lab’s standards.
Therefore, it is important when purchasing your bottle that you ask the company what limits they test down to. The claim “BPA Free” is readily used as a marketing tool to imply the bottles do not contain any traces at all. On the contrary, the lab may not have been capable of testing down to the most sensitive limit.
Finally, it is worth noting that a number of bottle manufacturers claim that they are BPA free simply because the bottles are made from stainless steel and have no plastic liner. It may be true that the bottle itself is BPA free, but the contaminates can come from the polycarbonate/polypropylene lids. Whatever part of the bottle BPA may leach from, the hazard could still be there.
This article has been written to give the facts about the industry, which is still largely unregulated. Again it is left down to consumers to sift through the spin. Anyone can claim to be “BPA Free” but unless the company is transparent with their certified testing results, as a careful consumer you should be wary of what you may be purchasing.