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The Scary Truth About BPA-Free Plastics

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When we first heard about the dangers of bisphenol A (BPA), a compound used to make hard plastics for things like reusable water bottles and food containers, we were horrified: A chemical leaking into our food and drinks that can disrupt our hormone levels and possibly lead to weight gain, fertility issues, and cancer? We’ll pass. (Some states, like CA, even tried to implement Labels Warning of BPA in Foods.) 

But now researchers are saying that the BPA-free products we bought to escape these outcomes may not be so safe after all. That’s because manufacturers simply replaced the BPA in their plasticware with other bisphenols—F and S, specifically—that act in much the same way as the dreaded BPA. (Discover why you're Eating More Plastic Than You Think.)

In one recent study, zebrafish that were exposed to BPA experienced a troubling 180 percent boost in the number of neurons in a part of the brain (called the hypothalamus) that’s associated with hyperactivity; BPS triggered a 240 percent increase in the same brain cells.

Earlier research showed that BPS disrupts heart rhythm in female rats (but not male rats) who were under stress. What’s more, a new French report found that BPS and BPF may block testosterone production in utero, which could impair fetus’ testicle development.

So what’s a water-guzzling, leftover-storing girl to do? The safest solution for now is to avoid plasticware altogether, regardless of whether its labeled BPA-free or not. Look for water bottles and food containers made from unlined food-grade stainless steel, aluminum, bamboo, or glass—such as the ones found on sites like lifewithoutplastic.com.

Also smart: watching out for sneakier sources of BPA, including canned foods (which are often lined with BPA-contained plastic) and thermal paper store receipts. (Learn more from our diet doctor: What’s the Worst Thing Found in Our Food?)

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