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Polycarbonate Plastics and Bisphenol A

We encourage you to join in the forum discussion instead of posting a comment on this blog entry. Studies about Bisphenol-A (BPA), the plastic monomer used to make polycarbonate plastic, have been getting a ton of media attention lately, and our customers have had quite a few questions about it. While we certainly don’t have all the answers, we wanted to share with you what the research currently shows and what we, as a company, are doing to address the issue. Over the past 20 years or so, polycarbonate plastic has become ubiquitous in the U.S. It’s very hard, as clear as glass – yet virtually unbreakable, lightweight and inexpensive. Because of these unique properties, it is used widely to make water bottles, aluminum can linings, and many other food containers. But in the past few years, a growing body of research has raised some difficult questions about polycarbonate plastic, and Bisphenol-A (BPA), the monomer out of which the plastic is made. Dozens of studies have been published on the subject in the last few years, and they show that in certain quantities, Bisphenol-A can act as an endocrine disruptor. The human body essentially mistakes these substances for its own natural endocrine hormones, which can impact a number of systems in our bodies. Some studies have also suggested that BPA can leach from polycarbonate plastic, although it has not been clearly established whether the amount of BPA that might leach from food containers causes harm. However, the research that has been done definitely raises some important questions, and we believe that much more work needs to be done to answer these questions and help consumers, businesses and the government understand the safety of this substance. So, what are we doing on the issue? First, we’re closely following the research as it emerges and keeping our shoppers and team members informed. You can read more about our policies and some of the most recent research on our website.  A quick overview of some of the steps we’ve taken to date:
  • In 2006, we were the first major U.S. retailer to completely ban the use of polycarbonate plastic in baby bottles and child drinking cups. Even though scientific consensus has not established that these products are harmful, we took this precautionary measure because of the emerging evidence of their risk.
  • We are also actively supporting the transition away from polycarbonate plastic where alternative materials are available. About 2 ½ years ago, most of the individual reusable water bottles in our stores were made from polycarbonate; today this material represents just a small number of the bottles we sell. We’re also working with manufacturers in other areas (aluminum cans, for example) to encourage the development of alternative packaging.
  • Our Quality Standards team is carefully following the research on this topic, and we’re working with some of the leading researchers in this field to understand their findings.
Our goal is to offer our shoppers alternatives to suspected endocrine-active packaging materials where they exist. Changing packaging is quite an involved process, and we promise that we will continue to closely examine the packaging materials used in our stores and search for the safest and most functional options. I said, the research is ongoing into this issue and we want to know what you think about all of this. To that end, we’ve set up a discussion on Bisphenol-A in our online forum – please join us! This is a place for you to make a comment, share your concerns, alert us to research or anything else you want to share on the topic of BPA. We’ll keep you posted on the latest developments as we learn about them. We certainly don’t have all the answers but we are planning to stay on the leading edge of this issue and understand the questions. We encourage you to join in the forum discussion instead of posting a comment on this blog entry.

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Despina Christaki says …

I bought 365 Wildflower Amber Honey and checked the bottle and saw that it is No.3. Shouldn't you be more careful of the products that you use?

Leslye says …

As a childbirth educator, lactation specialist and infant care specialist, I have spent 2 years learning about Bisphenol-A and how toxic it is for each and every one of us, for just born to aging. My website is filled with article upon article about why any plastic or cans with BPA should not be used and yet everywhere I go there is a baby sucking on a bottle that is not BPA free and when I question the parent as to the type of formula in the bottle, I am further disappointed to find that the formula was in liquid form that came out of a can lined with BPA. My 89 year old Dad says since he remains in good health, at his age he sees nothing wrong with drinking water from a bottle with BPA or soup or tuna (tuna is of course an entirely different story) from cans also lined with BPA. As a professional working with this issue all day long, it is extremely frustrating that certain stores (of course not Whole Foods!!!!) would still allow toxic plastics to be sold rather than educate the public before it is too late for their children.

Mia says …

I purchased several polycarbonate water bottles from Whole Foods 2 years ago. The recycle number on the bottom is 7PC, bottle is made by STC Plastics, but they have Whole Foods labels on them. Are these discontinued? Are they the bottles that are supposedly leaching BPA? Thanks!

Jane says …

I've heard that Eden Organics is the only U.S. company that has BPA-free canned goods. Does anyone know of any others?

pamela murphy says …

As a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, I have been researching solutions to plastics for years. I believe that P_Plastics& BisA is detrimental to not only the immunity, but terrible for the planet. There are solutions and my question is, why are you not finding other ways to package foods, as there are other products that not only are made from Non GMO vegetable products, but also will recycle into the earth. Here are some companies that are doing it and products are available! http://worldcentric.org/biocompostables http://www.green-plastic.com.cn/econtact.asp http://www.degradable.net/index.shtml

Jill Davis says …

Wholefoods uses BPA-laden thermal papaer to print its grocery receipts. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/07/bpa-cash-register-receipts/1 According to the Environmental Working Group, the amount of BPA in receipts c an be 1,000 times that found in cans or bottles. I wish Wholefoods would do the right thing and switch manufacturers. There are plenty of manufacturers of thermal paper that do not use BPA (like Appleton). Clearly Wholefoods saw this coming. When were you planning on switching? By using BPA in your cans and receipt paper, you are constantly exposing your customers and employees to cancer and reproductive harm. We deserve an answer.

Jay says …

Greetings, Could you please print on each can you sell whether or not it has BPA inside the can? Or at least list them on your website in the FAQ? That would be so helpful to your loyal customers. I've heard that Eden brand has no BPA. I think that Whole Foods could require it's vendors to use BPA free cans by a certain date if they really wanted to. Thank You! Jay BPA can activate estrogen receptors that lead to the same effects as the body's own estrogens. Some hormone disrupting effects in studies on animals and human cancer cells have been shown to occur at levels as low as 2-5 parts per billion. These health problems include lowered sperm count and infertile sperm in men, and exposure during development has been proven to have carcinogenic effects and produce precursors of breast cancer. BPA has been shown to have developmental toxicity, carcinogenic effects, and possible neurotoxicity. Read more: http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/organic-parenting/4600#ixzz18OatmuaJ

Donna Tordai says …

What about cans with bpa lining?