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Pregnant BPA Exposure: What You Can Do About It

More scary news about that nasty old Bisphenol-A. A new study found that exposing pregnant mice to the chemical compound resulted in changes in the fetal ovaries. These changes were seen with low BPA levels, equivalent to human BPA exposure from the environment.

This, then, is one of those multi-generational genetic alteration horrorshows we’ve been hearing about more and more lately, ways in which the “sins” of the grandparents wreak havoc on the children, grandchildren, and so on.

BPA is found in 93% of all Americans and 90% of all newborns.As we learn more and more about how much BPA there is coating the stuff we touch on a daily basis, it’s hard not to freak out about this.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family? You may have thought your cabinets were the biggest BPA offenders in your house. But it turns out you might want to start by cleaning out your purse. And you might want to wear gloves while you’re doing it.

It was recently revealed that store and machine receipts are a major source of Bisphenol A exposure. The paper is coated with the plastic—in some cases, significantly more BPA was found on a receipt than in the lining of a can. Since BPA migrates so easily, it can quickly pass from the surface of the paper to the hand that’s holding it and into that person’s body. It can also spread around the stuff inside a wallet or the bag where it’s placed. Which means when you put your receipt in your purse and it rubs up against your lipstick case, or your pack of gum…well, you get the idea.

When I first found this out, my reaction was to totally shut down. The idea that something as small and seemingly benign as a store receipt would be poisoning us seemed absurd (though somewhat poetic from an anti-consumerist angle). It seemed like if even a tiny store receipt was leaching chemicals, protecting ourselves was hopeless.

But it’s not.

The industry wants us to believe it’s hopeless. They want us to believe that BPA is just a part of living in the modern world.They want us to believe that there’s no real reason to believe it’s going to do anyone any harm. They’ve funded their own studies that determined BPA to be harmless. So even if there are a load of studies finding it harmful, they can claim that conflicting studies render results inconclusive. This creates a false sense of safety and placates consumers.  But it’s getting harder and harder for them to make that case. Lynn Harris’ explains the issue really well in the excellent BPA piece she wrote for Babble last year.

It seems like people are beginning to get the message, but it’s taking way too long for things to change. A number of states have begun the process of banning BPA. There have also been attempts to legislate federally, but unsurprisingly, there is a lot of industrially-inspired resistance to this idea. One important thing to do is to continue putting pressure on politicians to control BPA exposure and its affect on human health, protecting individuals as well as industries.

There are also things you can do right now. Here are some tips from ewg.org:

TIPS TO REDUCE EXPOSURES TO BPA IN RECEIPTS
Minimize receipt collection by declining receipts at gas pumps, ATMs and other machines when possible.
Store receipts separately in an envelope in a wallet or purse.
Never give a child a receipt to hold or play with.
After handling a receipt, wash hands before preparing and eating food (a universally recommended practice even for those who have not handled receipts).
Do not use alcohol-based hand cleaners after handling receipts. A recent study showed that these products can increase the skin’s BPA absorption (Biedermann 2010).
Take advantage of store services that email or archive paperless purchase records.
Do not recycle receipts and other thermal paper. BPA residues from receipts will contaminate recycled paper.
If you are unsure, check whether paper is thermally treated by rubbing it with a coin. Thermal paper discolors with the friction; conventional paper does not.

You probably already know about plastic bottles. You can also avoid or limit use of canned foods. Avoid food in plastic where possible, and definitely do not heat food in plastic.

For more info on which plastics to avoid and why, see Babble’s guide to plastics.

For more tips on avoiding BPA, during pregnancy and all the time, see the EWG guide.

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