by Kate Hehyoe
Recently, BPA’s been making headlines, but often with incomplete information. BPA, or bisphenol A, is a widely used chemical that can leach from packaging into foods and liquids.
As canned and frozen packaged foods go, BPA presents a real dilemma. It’s so ubiquitous, it’s even in soda cans. From Con-Agra to Carnation, Annie’s Naturals to Whole Foods, and conventional to organic, we’ve been eating products with BPA-packaging for more than fifty years.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest stops short of putting all BPA-lined containers (including cans) on the do-not-use list. But it does note that pregnant women, fetuses, infants and children are more at risk than the general population because BPA mimics estrogen, a hormone that affects brain development.
In early 2008, the Food and Drug Administration concluded that BPA-packaged products “are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects…At this time, FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles.”
But in September 2008, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and released before federal hearings linked exposure to bisphenol A with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities in adults.
Other studies suggest that as BPA leaches into ground water, it may harm fish and plants over time. (BPA does have a short half-life, chemically speaking, but it’s everywhere; as a polycarbonate component, it’s found in everything from CDs to medical equipment to fire retardant.)
The food safety issues are really just opening up. Things you should know about BPA include:
- If you see #7 in the recycling symbol on a plastic bottle or frozen food container, it may contain BPA. But #7 is a catch-all category, so it also includes both BPA and non-BPA containers.
- PVC containers marked as #3 can contain BPA in their plasticizers, but not all do.
- Any container of hard, clear plastic is likely to contain BPA, unless otherwise noted.
- BPA leaches out 55 times faster when exposed to hot liquids.
The good news is that non-BPA alternatives do exist. They’re either not widespread or not promoted as BPA-free. For instance:
- Eden-brand uses non-BPA cans for their beans (but not for their tomatoes).
- Aseptic containers (as with tomatoes) and pouched packages (as with tuna) are non-BPA alternatives to cans.
- For non-BPA plastic soda and water bottles, look for recycling symbols with 1 (PETE).
- Stainless steel and glass make good alternatives to hard plastic, polycarbonate bottles.
With increased consumer demand, more manufacturers will get the BPA out. You’ll probably never see labels stating the package contains BPA, but the brands that voluntarily go BPA-free will be smart to let us know.
This article is excerpted in part from Kate Heyhoe’s book (Da Capo Press, April 2009):
Cooking Green: Reducing Your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen—the New Green Basics Way
*Hundreds of tips and over 50 energy- and time-saving recipes to shrink your “cookprint”
(and affordable organics and pet food, too)
Brown bag lunches, wrapping up turkey leftovers, fall potlucks and festive tailgatings ramp up our use of plastic wrap, storage bags, trash bags, and paper products—all of which have greener options these days. But some can be pricey. Natural Value makes a full line of planet-friendly products at affordable prices, including plastic wrap and storage bags with no plasticizers or PVCs, unbleached recycled lunch bags, unbleached waxed paper bags, recycled paper products, home-compostable plates, and a full line of detergents, scrubbers, baby wipes, and trash bags with eco-positive aspects. They even make unbleached parchment paper (gourmet cooks listen up!). The Natural Value brand sells organic foods ranging from coconut milk from pasta to popcorn; some are also kosher. Got cats? Their cat food contains no preservatives, byproducts or coloring. Check out these products:
If you support being clean and green, and your tastes lean toward refined design or a hip Crate-&-Barrel look, then Caldrea has a product for you. Made by the same folks behind the Mrs. Meyer’s line of cleaning products, Caldrea products are just as green, but their fancier packaging and selection of scents absolutely exude upscale elegance, kissed with exotic aroma-therapy benefits. (They’re biodegradable, not tested on animals, and really do work without harsh chemicals.)
Overly sweet, frou-frou smells choke me up, but these are as far away from that concept as you can get. Caldrea blends natural essences into such options as Ginger Pommelo, Basil Blue Sage, Lavender Pine, Sweet Pea, Citrus Mint, and Seville Orange Amber, among other fragrances, then infuses them into such household handies as dishwashing liquid, countertop cleansers, all-purpose sprays, powdered scrubs, laundry products, and linen sprays. They’ll make your home clean and dreamy, and while I never thought I’d recommend countertop cleansers or linen sprays as luxurious stocking stuffers, these can make unexpectedly wonderful gifts. (Trust me, with four cats and two dogs, I guarantee pet owners will absolutely inhale these products.) Caldrea’s website has new holiday scents, but these are the ones I know best:
One benefit of cast iron is that the seasoned surface is naturally nonstick and non-toxic at any temperature, unlike bonded surfaces like Teflon.
It’s not just enough to make products from green materials, or design cookware that’s more energy efficient. The greenness of the manufacturing process also comes into play, and every cookware company makes some degree of environmental impact. But at Lodge, they’re environmentally vested. Here’s the company’s report:
How Green is Our Foundry?
Lodge Manufacturing Company’s Pollution Prevention Success Stories
*Increased Use of Biodiesel:* In 2005, Lodge began using biodiesel to power several pieces of equipment, progressing to a 90% blend before cutting back to 20% in winter months. Biodiesel reduces ozone forming potential and also reduces emissions of sulfur, carbon monoxide, particulate matter and hydrocarbons compared to diesel.
*Cardboard Recycling:* Lodge began cardboard recycling by allowing outside companies to pick up cardboard at no charge. In 2001, the amount of cardboard recycle was 34.5 tons. In 2005, it was 48.1 tons. The program continues today.
*Establishment of Beneficial Use of Foundry Sand:* Lodge Mfg, the American Foundry Society (AFS), and the Environmental Committee of the AFS worked with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Solid Waste to request and help draft a beneficial use policy for non-hazardous foundry sand. The policy was adopted in April 1996 and is an example of industry and government working together for good of the environment.
Beneficial Reuse of Foundry Sand/Marion County Landfill: Lodge Mfg coordinated with Marion County government to have 9,225 cubic yards of foundry sand to create the required 12-inch protective cover over the liner in the first phase of two new cells. Completed in March 2003, the County saved $191,311.75 by using the sand.
*Settling Ponds Support Plant & Animal Life:* A stream flows from South Pittsburg Mountain through the Lodge foundry and into the Lake Guntersville Reservoir Watershed. Working to enhance the stream’s water, Lodge constructed three storm water settling ponds to support plant and animal life. Water lilies, cattails and fish have been introduced to the ponds and are thriving. Water quality is now above requirements.
*Planting Trees for Site Beautification & Ozone Attainment:* A total of 121 trees have been planted on the Lodge Mfg campus to help improve air quality and beautification. The establishment of 1.4 acres of trees is equivalent to removing one motor vehicle from the highway.
*Lodge Manufacturing receives the 1994 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Hazardous Waste Reduction:* In 1991, Lodge President Henry Lodge replaces the cupola melting system with more environmentally friendly induction melt system. The result was that Lodge Mfg changed its status as a Large Quantity Generator of Hazardous Waste to Small Quantity Generator.