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Post Column: Popular product harms consumers

You probably haven’t heard of bisphenol A, but it’s better known as BPA.

Since the 1950s, a wide range of products have used it as a key component—from water bottles and the linings of food cans to the receipts we receive after buying them. This versatile chemical makes plastics hard and clear and makes ink stand out on paper.

BPA is not only popular with manufacturers. These days it is also a common subject of research into the health of humans and other animals. There is evidence that it might increase risk for breast cancer, poor memory, diabetes, obesity and—strangely enough—a sweet tooth.

Of course, the papers on which such concerns are based might not be conclusive and often involve studies with rats and monkeys rather than humans. You probably wouldn’t have much luck getting a study proposal that contains the line, “And then, I’ll feed my research subjects small amounts of BPA” past Ohio University’s Institutional Review Board. The old saying “better safe than sorry” seems to ring true.

Apart from specific health conditions, scientists have known since the 1930s that BPA acts a bit like estrogen, which is important in the functioning of women as well as men. Yet manufacturers have used this hormone disrupter in their products for the past 60 years. Even if it could be shown that the chemical had no connection to increased cancer risk, would you really want to consume more of it? “More of it” is the operative phrase. Most of us have had our share, but not to collective good cheer. People do not break out the bisphenol A at barbecues for a reason.

Unfortunately, there is no safe plastic. Convenient as plastics are, all have hormone-like activity at some levels. In fact, some BPA-free products change hormone levels even more than those containing BPA.

Not using any plastic products might not be realistic, but avoiding those that have contact with food is not a bad idea.

Since you can decrease your risk of a long list of ailments associated with BPA and other plastics by small lifestyle choices, such as not drinking from plastic water bottles or purchasing canned food, why not do so?

And in the meantime, ask yourself: What kind of person would give BPA to a Bobcat?

Zach Wilson is a senior studying philosophy and is a columnist for The Post. Are you concerned about BPA as well? Shoot him an email at

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