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”
“If you say you can remember the 60’s, you weren’t really there.”
While Bill Graham’s Fillmore pulsed with San Francisco psychedelicos, the Vulcan Gas Company was blowing open its doors to a nascent Austin counterculture, deep in the heart of Texas. Then came the Armadillo World Headquarters, where acts like BB, ZZ, and Zappa played to a mixed bag of hippies, cowboys and suits.
Now, Austin, TX has rolled out a new music stage. Literally. It’s on wheels, it’s green, and it may be heading for a town near you.
Austin remains an incubator of cutting edge everything, from music to tech to green. Besides billing itself as the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin is host to SXSW (the South by Southwest Music, Film, and Interactive Festival), and the PBS series Austin City Limits, on air since 1976 and now an annual festival in its own right. So it’s not surprising that a portable solar powered music stage has fired up here.
Sustainable Waves converts trailers to green music stages: Solar panels generate enough energy to power up sound equipment, as well as charge reserve batteries for use on cloudy days. The sides of the trailers lock down in transit, then pop up upon arrival. In just minutes, the stage is ready to rock and roll, compared to the hours a crew of stage hands needs to mount a traditional stage. And because it’s completely self-powered and self-contained, without wiring or plug-ins, music can go wherever the trailer goes, to parks, lakes, ranches, beaches or neighborhoods. Sustainable Waves rents their big green music machines to bands for performances both in town and on the road.
Plus, listeners get to hear solar energy in action. They come away with a good time and a greener perspective. So far, the Sustainable Wave and its Eco Tune package has made a splash at venues in Telluride, Joshua Tree, San Diego, Santa Fe and other hip places.