Are BPA free water bottles truly the safest alternative to drink? Why is BPA bad for you in the first place? How much exposure is too much? If you have found yourself asking these questions but finding mixed opinions, you are not alone.
Have you already decided to avoid BPA, but need more guidance? Keep reading for easy and effective ways to reduce your exposure.
What is BPA
A Russian chemist created Bisphenol-A or BPA in 1891. Its creation allowed for the synthesis of certain plastic compounds like resin and polycarbonate. BPA also halted metal corrosion.
Today, you can find it in the lining of canned goods, in disposable and reusable plastic water bottles, coating your water pipes, and in a wide variety of food storage containers.
It sounds like an innovation until studies revealed it is a xenoestrogen in the 1930s. It mimics the natural estrogen found in the human body.
However, this evidence did not halt its production or use. Scientists and health professionals still consider it an endocrine system disrupter.
BPA might be used in:
- Feminine products
- Can lining, including soda
- Lining water pipes
- CD and DVD disks
- Lenses in eyeglasses
- Thermal receipts
- Bottled water*
- Hard plastic food and beverage containers
- Sports equipment
- Some dental sealants
- *Many bottle companies have started using non-BPA alternatives, most notably Bisphenol-S and Bisphenol-F.
This list does not include leeched BPA from environmental impact.
The Environmental Impact of BPA
However, consumer plastics are not the only concern. According to a scientific report from collaborative research, 1 million pounds of BPA find their way into the environment each year. This occurs in one of two ways: post-consumer and pre-consumer waste.
Despite being biodegradable, BPA is a ground and water pollutant. It stunts tree and plant growth and affects nitrate and ammonium production. Without healthy amounts of nitrogen, plants cannot thrive.
In aquatic environments, BPA affects organisms in many ways. Like humans, BPA can interfere with their endocrine systems. Fish are highly susceptible in fresh and ocean waters, but amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates can be susceptible too.
BPA in Mineral Water
Mineral water might contain trace elements of BPA. It’s difficult to decipher where the water originated and whether that area contains amounts of BPA in its supply. Since no commonly used process can eliminate it from the water, you will only know if BPA is there if the company tests the water.
BPA in Natural Spring Water
Natural spring water can contain BPA. This means that even if your bottle carries a BPA-free label, the actual water source might contain contaminants. Labels generally apply only to the container and not the contents.
BPA in Filtered or Purified Water
To date, no widely used purifying process cannot remove BPA from the water or ground. Some new research does support additives to treatment facilities can extract 99% of BPA, but it introduces new chemicals in the process that require further study. Purified water and filtered water can still contain BPA.
BPA in Tap Water
What your tap water contains will vary depending on where you live. BPA can be present in tap water, and you should consider having your water tested on a regular basis.
Using a BPA-free bottle is but one step you can take to reduce your exposure. Filtered water at home, however, can still leave you exposed to BPA.
What Does BPA Do to Your Body?
The majority of study participants to date have been animals. Plant and aquatic studies show disheartening results too. However, early human studies do support that many of the following symptoms and conditions can occur in humans after any exposure to BPA.
BPA exposure can cause:
- Lowered immune system response
- Spikes in your blood pressure
- Increase your risk of heart disease
- Increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, and metabolic disorders
- Lower your sperm count
- Increase your prostate size
- Increase your chance for testicular issues
- Learning disorders
- Brain damage
- Abnormal sexual behavior
- Changes in your gender related behavior
- Early onset of puberty in children
- Ovary related conditions
- Breast tissue development in both men and women
- Damage to reproduction, including infertility
- Cognitive changes, including aggression, depression, and hyperactivity
A Closer Look at BPA and Your Endocrine System
Since BPA is an endocrine disrupter, it can cause potential hazard to your whole body. Your endocrine system is responsible for multiple bodily functions that range from hormone development to cognitive function.
It plays a part in every other major system and cell in your body, usually via hormone distribution and creation. If weakened, damaged, or diseased, your endocrine system will not function properly.
If you are feeling sluggish or developing a condition listed above, you might start making small or big health related changes. Maybe you get more sleep, eat better, and drink more water. Your condition does not change though, and it might become worse.
However, are you likely to link your health conditions to something simple like water, bottles, containers, or canned goods?
How Much BPA is Too Much for Your Body?
According to the CDC, the majority of humans contain at least trace levels of BPA in their blood. Animal and plant studies show that these small amounts are more than enough to cause damage to your body.
Controversy arises frequently over what the FDA and other health organizations deem as healthy exposure levels. Yet the CDC and independent Environmental Working Group claim studies support toxicity at low exposure.
How much BPA is truly too much for the human body? Do genetic factors, such as predisposition, alter risks? People like you are likely to have these questions, but science and medicine cannot provide you with a singular answer.
Another interesting view comes from the FDA’s decision to ban BPA from baby bottles and infant formula cans. They made this decision based on science and not public opinion. If BPA isn’t safe for a baby, why is it safe for children and adults? Again, no one has answered these questions.
How to Ensure Your Water is Free of BPA
Ensuring your water is free of BPA will take some research and proactivity on your part. You can certainly reduce your BPA exposure too, but remember that safe levels are not exact. The less BPA that enters your body, the better.
Are BPA Alternatives Any Better for Your Body or the Environment?
First, let’s look at BPA alternatives manufacturers currently use in plastics, like bottles for water. Some are better than others, but consumers need sound research.
Bottles and other plastics free of BPA might not be the answer. With over 50 alternatives hitting the market, you will have a difficult time figuring out which substitutes are safer than others are if you insist on using plastic containers.
Do keep in mind that some alternatives might be safer for humans, but they still pose large risks to the environment and animals, including fish. You will have to make the decision for yourself whether to use these alternatives or seek another.
Two Common Plastic Alternatives to BPA:
- Bisphenol-S (BPS)
- Bisphenol-F (BPF)
Both BPS and BPF can have similar affects to BPA on the environment and body. Recent studies suggest they are no safer for you than BPA. Plastics made with BPA, BPS, and BPF will show a code on the container. Look for the codes 3, 7, or PC. Do your best to avoid these when possible.
Limiting Your Exposure When You Can
- Avoid heat, including microwaving and direct sunlight
- Don’t leave soda cans or bottled water inside of a hot vehicle
- Avoid hot foods served in plastic containers unless free of BPA
- Stop drinking soda
- Avoid plastic wrap
- Allow food and beverages to cool completely before placing them in storage containers
- Avoid canned goods
You will find yourself in situations where you cannot avoid BPA or the two major replacements. However, you can still limit your exposure. The chemicals leech into whatever food or beverage enters the container when heated. The longer you expose the container or bottle to heat, the more the chemical can mix with your food or beverage.
Even if you are drinking a variety of bottle water that is free of BPA, follow the tips below to avoid having any synthetic chemicals end up in your beverage.
Non-BPA Water Bottle and Food Storage Alternatives
Choosing alternatives to plastic is one way to limit your BPA exposure. They might not be as convenient at times since few companies sell water in glass bottles.
However, you have the option of water in cardboard containers. These generally have a wax lining, so you need to keep them out of direct sunlight and limit their heat exposure. They are free of BPA, portable, and a safer alternative.
Glass Water Bottles
Glass water bottles and food storage containers are safe alternatives to plastic. They are also versatile without worrying about chemicals leeching into your drinks and food.
Shatterproof storage containers like Pyrex can be great for home use and on the go, but you might wish to avoid using the plastic lids despite their microwave-safe claims when food is still hot.
Stainless Steel Water Bottles
From water bottles to coffee cups to bento-style boxes, stainless steel can make life easier without increasing your BPA exposure. They might not be microwave safe, but they can hold hot foods (or cold) without the risk. Pair hot food with an external insulated bag, and your food will stay hot.
Corkcicle is a brand of stainless steel water bottles to consider. You can read our in-depth review here.
Filter Your Own Water
A home filter cannot remove BPA at this time; however, it can offer other benefits. This is a safe alternative if your water supply tests negative for BPA, BPS, and BPF.
However, not all filtering systems are alike. Using your water quality report as your guide will give you the most benefit when determining what to use and avoid.
Aquasana is a whole house water filter brand to consider.
These are generally made of plastic, so you will need to find a brand free of BPA, BPS, and BPF. They use an activated charcoal filter to remove contaminants, like chlorine, but they will not remove other types. Still, they are an inexpensive alternative and come in different sizes.
Reverse Osmosis (RO) System
This system can be pricy, but you can use a system on your entire house or at one sink. The downside to RO is that it removes the good minerals your body needs. If you do not mind replenishing the missing minerals from your water, a RO system might be a good fit.
Read our review of the Pros and Cons of Reverse Osmosis Water Filters to learn more.
Final Thoughts on BPA, Bottles, and Alternatives
BPA has the ability to be a hormone disrupter in humans and animals. It causes harm to the environment too. While the FDA claims it is safe, they do not share safe consumption levels with the public, and it contradicts numerous scientific studies.
You might not be able to avoid exposure no matter what steps you have taken. BPA plastic alternatives also might be no safer for your body or the environment.
If you must use BPA or BPA alternatives, make sure you do not heat the plastic. This includes prolonged sun exposure or storing water inside a hot vehicle.
The best way to limit BPA exposure is to stop using plastic. Opt for metal and glass bottles, and shy away from plastic packaging and canned goods. When no known level is safe, it’s best to practice caution for your health and the environment.