BPA, or Bisphenol A is a chemical used in the manufacturing process of plastics, and a major endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors mimic the body’s natural hormones, and can interfere with how they normally function. BPA is an oestrogen (the female sex hormone) imitator, which can be particularly problematic for both women trying to conceive and those already pregnant. Research has indicated BPA exposure (in levels found in the general population) may cut a woman’s chance of getting pregnant if she is undergoing fertility treatment, and has been identified as having a direct negative effect on egg maturation. BPA additionally has implications for a baby’s early growth – particularly the development of their brain and reproductive organs – leading to issues such as undescended testicles, low sperm counts, and diminished ovarian reserve.
Several human studies have now even linked BPA exposure in early life with behavioural problems and anxiety in childhood, suggesting the chemical has a lasting effect on neural functioning. It is also thought that exposure to BPA in the later stages of pregnancy is when it can have the biggest impact on brain functioning. Aside from developmental issues, BPA exposure has also been associated with obesity, diabetes, and certain types of cancer (breast and prostate); therefore identifying sources of BPA and avoiding these is an important consideration for all of us.
BPA is found in lots of products we come into contact with on a daily basis, most notably in food preparation and storage items, and even paper sales receipts may contain BPA. Due to this prevalence, BPA often gets into our diets, but try not to panic, making these five simple switches can help you avoid this harmful chemical while trying to conceive (TTC) and during your pregnancy:
Switch one – dump the plastic bottles: Don’t drink bottled water from plastic bottles, instead use a glass, steel, or ceramic water bottle filled with filtered tap water. If you need to buy water, make sure it’s in a glass bottle, but if you do have to buy plastic, check for the recycling code on the bottom. A number 7 may mean the plastic contains BPA unless it also has ‘PLA’ and a leaf symbol on it to show it is BPA free.
Switch two – ditch the plastic food wrap and storage: Never wrap fatty foods like cheese in cling film to store them, instead try greaseproof paper or beeswax wraps. Also don’t heat things in the microwave covered in cling film, in ready meal plastic trays/containers (we’re looking at you soup!), or in plastic Tupperware as this will only accelerate the BPA making its way into your food. Instead, put your food in a ceramic, glass, or pyrex bowl and cover with a plate. When storing food in the fridge or freezer or taking lunch out with you, use glass/pyrex containers, or Tupperware marked as ‘BPA free’. For freezing, certain freezer bags can be BPA free, so look out for these.
Switch three – get your travel cups in check: We all love a hot drink on the go, and especially when you are pregnant, taking herbal teas, or hot water with ginger out with you is a good way to keep hydrated and manage any pregnancy nausea. Try switching your plastic travel cups to eco-friendly bamboo ones, or for the ultimate safe option, opt for stainless steel! Better options for both you and the planet!
Switch four – switch out your tins and canned goods: Another source of BPA is tinned foods, so try and replace everyday foods you usually buy in cans such as chopped tomatoes with ones sold in a glass jar (usually marked as passata) – you can even buy tuna in glass jars! Other staples like sweetcorn can be bought frozen instead of canned, and pulses like lentils and split peas can be found on the dried foods aisle and then cooked at home. Certain beans are also for sale in glass jars, but if you do buy tinned take some time to find those marked as BPA free.
Switch five – lose the cash register receipts: Have you ever been given a sales receipt in a shop only to find it feels warm to the touch? These receipts are likely printed using thermal paper to imprint the information rather than ink, and a BPA coating is used on the paper as part of this process. Many shops now offer to email receipts rather than print them, and although this may be more time consuming, try and go for this option. If you do have to handle these receipts, don’t keep these for long periods of time, and dispose of them properly in a rubbish bin. Do not recycle them, as this only means the BPA can be transferred into whatever paper they are made into next (which could even be your loo roll!).
By making these switches you can really cut down the amount of BPA you are exposed to while TTC and during pregnancy, and can be more assured you’re doing what you can to keep you and your little one safe from this harmful chemical.
Almeida, S., et al. ’Bisphenol A: Food Exposure and Impact on Human Health’
Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 17:6 (November 2018), pages 1503 – 1517.
Do, Minh T., et al. ‘Urinary bisphenol A and obesity in adults: results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey’. Health promotion and chronic disease prevention in Canada: research, policy and practice, 37:12 (December 2017), pages 403-412.
Ehrlich, S., et al. ‘Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations and Implantation Failure among Women Undergoing in Vitro Fertilization’. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120:7 (July 2012), pages 978–983.
Machtinger, Ronit., et al. ‘Bisphenol-A and human oocyte maturation in vitro.’ Human Reproduction, 28:10 (October 2013), pages 2735–45
Miyagawa, S., Sato, T., & Iguchi, T. ‘Bisphenol A‘ in Takei, Y., Ando, H., & Tsutsui, K (Eds.). (2015). Handbook of Hormones: Comparative Endocrinology for Basic and Clinical Research. Elsevier.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Endocrine Disruptors, available online: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm
Ohtani, N., et al. ‘Late pregnancy is vulnerable period for exposure to BPA’. The Journal of veterinary medical science, 80:3 (January 2018), pages 536-543.
Peretz J., et al. ‘Bisphenol a and reproductive health: update of experimental and human evidence, 2007−2013’. Environmental Health Perspectives, 122:8, (August 2014), pages 775–786.
The Endocrine Society. Exposure to low levels of BPA during pregnancy can lead to altered brain development (March 2018). Available online: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180318144901.htm
Washam, C. ‘Exploring the Roots of Diabetes: Bisphenol A May Promote Insulin Resistance.’ Environmental Health Perspectives, 114:1 (January 2006), pages 48–49.