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Bisphenol S: How to Identify and Avoid It

How to Identify and Avoid Products with Bisphenol S

What is BPS and what's it used for?

A while back, I wrote a post talking about how going BPA free wasn't enough, as Bisphenol S (BPS) was becoming a problem. Consumers demanded that companies stop using BPA in their products, and many companies responded by saying that they'd gone BPA free. To promote this, products were marketed as being 'BPA free'. The problem is that BPA has been replaced with BPS (Bisphenol S). BPA is used to produce polycarbonate plastic. BPS, like BPA, is used to make plastics hard so that they can be shaped.  Other bisphenols include Bisphenols B, C, E, F, G, M, P, PH, TMC and Z.

Where do you find BPS? How can you identify it?

As bisphenols are used to produce polycarbonate plastics, the first thing to look for are any plastics marked #7. These are polycarbonates, and although they may correctly say that they are BPA free, they're probably just using a different kind of bisphenol. You'll also find BPS in things like:

  • plastic food wraps
  • thermal receipt paper (till receipts)
  • toilet paper and tissues 
  • tinned foods and drinks
Bisphenol S can be found in tinned foods and drinks

What's the problem with BPS?

BPS, like it's cousin BPA, has been linked to endocrine disruption. Endocrine disruptors mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body, and this can have developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans and in animals. In 2008, The US National Toxicology Program (NTP) Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction evaluated the potential for BPA to cause adverse effects on reproduction and development in humans. The NTP said that:

"The NTP has some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A."

It seems that BPS causes similar sorts of issues. BPS also appears to be an endocrine disruptor, and has been linked to increased hyperactivity and heart arrhythmia in female rats. Clearly, it's not enough to avoid BPA, we need to be avoiding BPS and the other bisphenols as well. Even more concerning is a 2011 study concluding that most plastics, even the ones assumed to be safe, "release estrogenic chemicals when they are exposed to common use stresses". This means that the everyday wear and tear on plastics means that they leach estrogenic chemicals. However, this study has been criticised, as the tests were done in vitro (i.e. in a petri dish) rather than in vivo (i.e. in an animal).

How do you avoid it?

We could say, just avoid plastic. But that's not very helpful, because it's almost impossible to avoid plastic completely. It's also not enough to avoid products with BPA, or to buy products that are marked BPA free.

  • Actively look for safer plastics. Avoid polycarbonate plastics. These are #7 plastics marked with the words PC, and they're usually clear. Even if these polycarbonate plastics are BPA free, the BPA has probably been replaced with another bisphenol like Bisphenol S.
  • #7 plastics that are opaque are usually okay. ABS is a safe plastic, (it's the same thing that Lego bricks are made of) and it's opaque. Nylon is another #7 plastic that is opaque, and it's safe.
  • Avoid plastics #1 (PETE or PET), #3 (PVC) and #6 (polystyrene).
  • Choose safer plastics #2 (HDPE), #4 (LDPE) and #5 (polypropylene). These safer plastics have never had BPA in the first placee.
  • Choose silicone instead of plastic.
Try to swap plastic for other alternatives where possible:
  • Switch to glass, ceramic, cast iron and stainless steel dishes and pots in the kitchen.
  • Choose food in glass containers rather than plastics or tins. It is more difficult, but not impossible, to find everything from jams to honey to tomatoes in glass jars. Alternatively, cook things like beans in a pressure cooker.
  • Choose safer children's toys made from natural materials or safer plastics and silicones.
  • Avoid plastic food packaging, and choose reusable alternatives like Wean Meister.
  • Buy a reusable water bottle made from glass or stainless steel. Take it along when you go out so that you're not buying drinks in single use plastic containers.
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