Avoiding BPA Plastic Exposure

Show Summary - August 3, 2009


Sharon welcomed the listeners and talked about the importance of water in life and life in water. She said that it is imperative for everyone to realize the importance of water, to drink plenty of water and to carry water with them if they are unsure of a water source. Dehydration, or lack of water, is out of control in our world and causes or contributes to ailments from allergies to obesity.

Guest: Sonya Lunder, MA

Sonya Lunder, MA (Washington, DC), Senior Analyst, Environmental Working Group. "Helping Consumers Avoid Toxic Exposure to Bisphenol-A Plastic and Other Hazardous Chemicals."

Sonya Lunder has an MA in Public Health with a specialty in Toxicology. She has been a researcher with the Environmental Working Group for six years, specializing in toxic plastics, especially Bisphenol-A.

She says that we are a part of the Earth environment and that the chemicals we use can find their way into our bodies and remain there for years, causing damage that is difficult to predict, especially since everyone reacts differently. The indoor environment may be worse for this than the outdoor environment.

At least with medications, she says, we know what they are supposed to do and there are parameters regarding side effects. Chemicals that enter our bodies accidentally are far less predictable and could alter our response to nutrients and medications. There are hundreds of these chemicals - fabric sizing, plastics, cleaning fluids, paint, air and water pollutants, etc.

Bisphenol-A or BPA, is a plastic discovered as long ago as the 1930's to have a hormone-like effect of some humans, and which could cause birth defects when ingested by pregnant women. With that long a history, according to Ms. Lunder, it is amazing that the substance is still widely used in food packaging. She adds that it took the government decades to outlaw leaded paint and gasoline, even though lead was long known to be highly toxic. The delay was caused by intense industry lobbying.

BPA is contained in plastic jugs marked "#7." It is also lines metal soda cans and the lids of baby food cans. Most symptoms of exposure are sub-clinical but it affects everyone differently and the results could be very serious, especially in infants.

The conversation then turned to pesticide exposure. The EWG publishes two lists, the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean Fifteen." Foods on the Dirty Dozen list include produce where you tend to eat the skin and/or outer leaves and therefore could ingest high levels of pesticide residue. The list includes peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes. These should never be eaten unless thoroughly washed or organically grown (or if you peel them or remove the outer leaves).

(Note - why aren't tomatoes and carrots on the list?)

The Clean Fifteen may be safely ingested even with pesticide residue because you tend to discard the skin. They include Bananas, oranges, onions, cabbage, etc.

Organic foods are becoming more easily available but the public continues to demand large, healthy, unblemished produce that is difficult to produce through organic farming. Organic foods taste better and are healthier for you but they also cost more and don't look as good. There are numerous alternatives to chemical pesticides to keep out insects.

Ms. Lunder expressed opposition to the process of irradiating foods, contending that there may be a loss of nutritional content and that the resulting genetic damage to the food could have unpredictable consequences. Sharon suggested that none of the problems with irradiation are proven and that irradiation of meat to kill bacteria is far preferable to exposing consumers to e-coli, salmonella or botulism.


Categories: Ecology and the environment; business, patents and the environment; health and wellness; 2009