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BPA has been in the news a lot lately, raising concern among many parents looking for more information about this chemical that’s been used in the manufacturing of food and childcare products since the 1960s.

According to the Food Standards Agency, BPA stands for bisphenol A, a chemical used in the production of epoxy resins used to coat the inside of cans and, most notably, polycarbonate plastics. The purpose of the chemical is to strengthen these plastics and provide a protective barrier for metal to prevent corrosion.

So, what containers are manufactured with BPA? When it comes to resins, they’re used to coat the inside of cans that store foods like soup and vegetables. As for plastics, polycarbonate is the type of plastic used for making water bottles and food storage containers, both disposable and reusable. That means everything from the canned tomatoes you use for pasta sauce to the container you put the leftovers in to take to work may contain BPA.

The controversy surrounding BPA is based on the fact small amounts of the chemicals can seep into food stored in these containers over time. Repeated washing and heating can only exacerbate this process. This could be harmful to your health over time, as some research suggests BPA can negatively affect the brain and prostate gland, especially in children.

This is especially alarming to parents and medical professionals due to the fact BPA isn’t just used in the aforementioned products, but also in childcare products like baby bottles and children’s toys. Since young children use bottles often and are known to be most — if not all — of their toys in their mouths at some point, their exposure to BPA increases.

While BPA is still generally recognized as safe for use in production of these items, both the European Union and European Framework Regulation have guidelines in place to prevent the transfer of high amounts of BPA into the foods and beverages stored in containers made with BPA. Until more information is available, there are ways to reduce the amount of BPA you come into contact with.

In order to limit your family’s exposure to BPA, you need to be careful about the items you shop for. Make sure to check for the words “BPA free” on the label. If you don’t see those words, do your research — reach out to the companies you’re loyal to for further information about how the product is produced and if/when they plan to go BPA free. If you purchase a product made with BPA for food storage and serving, avoid heating it up as microwaving can accelerate the release of the chemical. You also shouldn’t put these products in the dishwasher. To be on the safe side, opt for stainless steel or glass products. As for children’s toys, wood is the best natural option.

BPA doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, but follow these recommendations and you can cut back on how much enters your home.

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