By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
Do your kids eat lunch at school? They may be consuming worrisome amounts of bisphenol A at mealtime, according to a new study published in the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.
This chemical, BPA for short, is a synthetic estrogen and hormone disruptor that is used to make epoxy, including the epoxy coating inside most food cans made in the U.S. Convenient, affordable and shelf-stable, canned foods are a staple in home and school kitchens around the country. Problem is, BPA breaks away from the cans’ internal coating and leaches into the food inside.
The study, by researchers at the Stanford Prevention Research Center and Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, found that BPA is migrating into school lunches. The scientists looked for BPA contamination in elementary school meals served in the San Francisco Bay Area.
They concluded that schoolchildren could ingest BPA at concentrations approaching those found to be harmful in animal studies. The levels were highest for lower-income kids who often eat breakfast as well as lunch at school.
The news about school lunches is not all bleak. Other evidence suggests that, apart from the BPA contamination problem, school lunches are getting healthier. A recent report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that more schools are serving vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Still, those vegetables often come from metal cans lined with BPA.
What’s a parent to do?
Get involved. Studies suggest that young children and the developing fetus are most vulnerable to the health dangers of BPA. Talk to your children’s school about the foods it serves and advocate healthy menu options.
Help your children make smart choices at mealtime. Encourage them to eat fresh vegetables and fruits whenever possible. Pack healthy lunches and snacks for them when you can.
Limit BPA consumption at home. Alarmingly, for most products, there’s no reliable way to know whether a canned food is BPA-free. But EWG has a tool that can help. Check this report to find out which brands use BPA, and when in doubt, ask the manufacturer.
Rinse canned foods – particularly beans, fruits and vegetables – to help lower the amount of BPA your family eats. Look for foods in glass jars, and substitute fresh, dried or frozen whenever possible.
Never heat food in metal cans. BPA leaches from epoxy faster when it is heated.