10 ways to reduce BPA and Phthalates exposure in food

by | Jun 23, 2019 | Green life | 0 comments

IN pregnancy there are many elements that affect your and directly on your baby’s health: food and its nutritional value, movement and physical activity, stress management and sleep quality are the most mentioned. I find it very ironic that the official guidelines put a lot of attention on food safety in pregnancy (don’t eat semi-raw eggs, avoid fish, raw meat, milk and unpasteurized soft cheese). However, it’s never mentioned that drinking water from the plastic bottle or using aluminium trays for cooking produces neurotoxic effects and alters the normal functionality of the hormones in the human body.

It would be too simplistic to think that your baby’s development is entirely dependent only on the food/nutrition and not on other life choices. If you want the best for your child, you need to consider all the areas that affect your health and toxins are one of them.

What we can consider as a toxin in pregnancy?

A toxin is any chemical or synthetic compound that alters the reproductive activity, the development of the fetus and the hormonal system of the future mother and her baby.

The topic of toxins to which we are exposed to every day is very difficult to treat because there are situations that are out of our control (such as pollution if you live in the city) but there are conscious choices you can make to reduce contact with toxins. This is where I chose to focus my attention

This article will talk about the toxins that you can ingest due to you the way you cook and store the food. There are also other aspects to consider when we talk about the toxins that regard, for example, the pans you use for cooking, your home furnishings, home cleaning and personal care products that will be the topic of my next article.

But before I start I would like to give you some comfort and reinsurance.

Some of the information I will share with you can be scary and hard to accept (no one likes to talk about difficult topics, such as birth defects or miscarriage). You could start asking yourself questions because no one has ever warned you about these chemicals or you start worrying because you are aware that you and your baby have already been exposed to these toxins. Before you freak out remember this: you are doing the best you can with the information you have right now. Life is continuous learning and your body is programmed to do everything to make your baby grow perfectly in health

Avoiding exposure to toxins is just one of the areas of your life that you can continue to improve thanks to the always updated researches in this field. Don’t look back to the past. Focus on what you can do today!

Let’s start with plastic: Bisphenol-a (bpa) and Phthalates

During pregnancy, hormone levels are adjusted to support the growth of your baby. The glands of the endocrine system and the hormones they release affect almost every cell, organ and function in the body. They are fundamental in numerous functions: they regulate mood, growth, tissue development, metabolism, sexual functions and reproductive processes.

On the other hand, chemical compounds that disrupt the human endocrine system, called xenoestrogens, that are synthetic estrogens, are widely used in industrial compounds, such as  PCBs, BPAs, pesticides, herbicides, phthalates. These compounds mimic or interfere with the hormones of the human body and therefore affect all the functions mentioned above which the human endocrine system performs.

There are many chemical compounds present in plastic, one of which is Bisphenol-A (BPA).

What is BPA and where you can find it?

BPA is a chemical substance mostly produced in the world and we are all exposed to it as it’s used in almost all food packaging. It is used above all (but not only) in the production of polycarbonate plastics (very widespread due to their transparency, thermal and mechanical resistance). Moreover, it can be found:

  • In plastic bottles and food containers
  • In the resins that cover metal cans containing food and in the soda cans
  • In electronics and all BPA-containing plastics (e.g plastic wrap)
  • In BPA-free products. Yes here too. BPA-free plastic should, in theory, be safer but it’s not. After the bad publicity on BPA the companies started to work out alternatives, one of which is BPS. However, also BPS has a negative effect on the endocrine system, embryonic and neurological development in the same way as BPA has been demonstrated

It’s transferred to food faster if the containers and cans that contain food and beverages are subjected to heat so when food in a plastic container is heated in the microwave or the plastic bottle with water is left in the car under the sun.

BPA is also widely present not only in plastic but also on receipts from thermal printers (shop receipts or airplane/train tickets) and is readily transferred from receipts to the skin when they are handled. After holding the receipt even for just a few seconds, the level of BPA in the blood increases considerably. It would, therefore, be advisable to wash your hands every time you handle receipts.

In practice, the longer you keep the receipt in your hand the more BPA is absorbed into your blood system.

Why BPA is dangerous in pregnancy?

Exposure to endocrine disruptors is particularly unsafe for the development of your baby’s reproductive system (genitals and breasts) and later on with age with precocious puberty, ovarian dysfunction and decreased sperm quality (factors to be taken into consideration also for infertility).

It has been shown that BPA negatively affects the abnormal development of breast tissue compromising the production of breast milk and therefore the ability to breastfeed.

But there is more. Continuous exposure to BPA has been associated with miscarriage and premature labour. Some research links it to hyperactivity and other behavioural problems in children when their mothers were exposed to BPA during pregnancy. BPA can also affect blood sugar metabolism by reducing insulin sensitivity and producing pancreatic beta cell dysfunction (insulin-producing cells). This is associated with the risk of diabetes that your newborn could develop as a child.

Again, I don’t want to spread terror but simply make you more aware about choices you can do starting form today and the next day and again the next day.

Please keep this in mind as you read on. My goal is to make this subject more digestible. (knowledge is power, right?)

Another group of chemical compounds used in plastic are PHTHALATES or “plasticizers” used to make the plastic more flexible, transparent and resistant.

Phthalates are found in numerous objects: vinyl floors, plastic packaging, plastic bags, plastic bottles, shower curtains. Moreover, even if not directly related to food, phthalates are used in body lotions, hair lacquers, nail polishes, repellents and fragrances (perfumes, aromatic candles and air fresheners)

However, our main exposure to phthalates is through food contact with plastic packaging. In one study that measured exposure to phthalates in pregnant women in New York and Krakow (Poland), 100% of the tested participants resulted positive to phthalates

Why pregnant women should inform their selves about the negative effects of phthalates?

Phthalates are powerful endocrine disrupters. They reduce testosterone synthesis. This is particularly worrying when it comes to genital development in males that can cause incomplete testicular descent which leads to impairment of the reproductive system. These substances also seem to make the genitals of males more feminine

The other consequences of exposure to phthalates in pregnancy regard the risk of premature birth induced by an intrauterine inflammatory process caused by phthalates. Mental and intellectual development and even IQ, especially in male children, can also be affected by phthalates.

What solutions exist to reduce exposure to BPA and Phthalates?

Clearly, exposure to BPA and phthalates is very common and causes many health problems. I show you some practical solutions to protect you and reduce direct contact with these chemicals.

  1. Avoid storing food, or worse, heating it in plastic containers. Use glass, ceramics or stainless steel containers for leftovers
  2. Do not heat food in the microwave in plastic containers or in plastic wrap. The chemical present in the plastic go in direct contact with the food or they are released in the air after they are heated.
  3. Do not allow plastic or plastic wrap to come into direct contact with food

What can you use?

  1. Reusable beeswax wraps. You can find them on Amazon, such as these you can wrap containers or sandwiches and with the warmth from your hands naturally secure it in place. This creates a kind of raincoat that keeps food fresh. They are reusable and washable only with hot water (detergents can destroy the wax). They last from 5-12 months and are biodegradable and compostable

BE AWARE! They cannot be used with hot foods

  1. Biodegradable paper bags are made from a strong and resistant grass-proof material and can be reusable. The perfect option for sandwiches
  2. Biodegradable baking paper.Perfect for wrapping sandwiches or hams (aluminium is not a good choice, I’ll explain it to you in this article). It is made of cellulose fibres derived from the wood from sustainable forests. It can be reused several times, just wash it.

TO COVER THE LEFTOVERS:

  1. Bowl covers are made of cotton and you can use them on bowls and secure them with an elastic band. They are sold in sets of different sizes and can be washed and reusable
  2. Use the dish! The simplest (and cheapest) solution is to use what we already have at home. Small or large ceramic plates are prefects to cover your leftovers
  3. Glass jars. Ideal for storing fruit and vegetables that have already been partially cut. Put a little bit of water on the bottom of the jar and store your cut vegetables: carrots, courgettes, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers. Water helps “hydrate” vegetables. Change the water often to make sure it is always fresh. Glass jars with lids are perfect for storing fresh cut onions.

REMEMBER TO REUSE! Reuse the glass jars you buy with jams, mayonnaise, honey. Just wash them and you can use them to store spices, aromatic herbs, dried fruits, legumes.

  1. Instead of plastic bottles, use glass or stainless steel bottles. On Amazon, you will find the vast choice. Don’t be tempted to buy BPA or phthalates free plastic bottles for the reason I talk you about before. BE AWARE! Plastic bottles are not only used for water or fruit juices. Even condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, oil and honey are sold in plastic containers.
  2. Reduce consumption of canned products. Prefer fresh, frozen or food in glass jars
  3. Be aware that paper cups for takeaway coffee/tea are often lined with plastic, and the lid is made of plastic. In some coffee bars, you can bring your own cup and even get e price reduction (be curious and ask J)
  4. The less you handle the receipts and aeroplane tickets, the better.
  5. Consume less drinks in cans or plastic bottles (aluminium cans are lined with BPA – an additional incentive to stop drinking full of sugar beverages)
  6. Buy in bulk or without the plastic packaging. To give some examples: fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, pasta and rice packed in paper wraps
  7. Avoid storing fruit and vegetables in plastic bags. Use produce bags for loose fresh fruit and vegetables. Organic cotton mesh versions are ideal as they are breathable, allowing fruit and veggies to stay fresh in the bag until you are ready to cook with them

 

You don’t have to do all these things at once. Even if you start to choose just a couple from this list, you will improve your health and that of your baby. As I wrote at the beginning, you cannot control the quality of the air you breathe, but you are able to choose where to store water or food. And when next time you are asked in the grocery store, if you need a sales recipe, just say no.

Every little change makes a big difference. All these precautions are important in pregnancy but also in early childhood when children are still very vulnerable to toxins so by practising now you will protect your family for years.

Which of the solutions I proposed to you, can you implement this week to reduce the exposure to BPA and phthalates? Let me know in the comments below