The industrial chemical BPA has been used to make hard plastic bottles and the lining of food cans for decades. After studies indicated that the chemical could play a role in cancers, heart disease and abnormal brain development in children, its use in baby bottles was curtailed in the U.S. The Breast Cancer Fund has now released a report about BPA in canned foods marketed specifically to children.
Rachel Gibson, like many working mothers, wants to feed her children the best food she can find.
So for this snack, she chooses organic food in a glass container. But….
"I am pretty certain that the cap, the lining on this part, probably has bisphenol A in it because there is some sort of epoxy that is used for that," she said.
Her concern is legitimate - Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been linked to breast and prostate cancer and other diseases in animal studies.
BPA is widely used in plastics and epoxy resins, including the lining of food cans. It has been identified as an endocrine disruptor which means it affects glands and hormones.
The Breast Cancer Fund, works to eliminate environmental health hazards that cause cancer. The advocacy group released a report showing high levels of BPA in canned food marketed to children. Connie Engel is with the Breast Cancer Fund.
"The Breast Cancer Fund tested popular canned food items marketed to kids and found out that every single one contained BPA," she said. "The highest levels were found in Campbell’s Disney Princess and Campbell’s Toy Story soups."
Engel says BPA in the can lining migrates into the food.
Dr. Leena Hilakivi-Clarke is a researcher at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University. She says animal studies show a direct link between BPA and breast cancer.
"Basically 90 percent of humans, when the BPA levels are measured, are positive," said Dr. Hilakivi. "So one can find levels of BPA in most people."
Dr. Hilakivi says cancer can take 50 years to develop. She's more concerned about type two diabetes in human children, and notes that BPA affects children and adults differently.
"I think that in both there is an increase risk for example for type two diabetes but children in general are much more susceptible to exposure of endocrine disruptors and the most sensitive are pregnant women and their unborn fetuses," she said.
Besides cancer and diabetes, other studies have linked BPA to infertility, early puberty in girls and obesity.
Many of the medical findings on BPA have been contested, and studies continue. Some U.S. states have banned BPA in baby bottles, children’s toys and utensils.
A spokesman for Campbell's, the company with the highest BPA levels in the study, has said it is confident in the safety of its products. He said evidence shows BPA in can linings poses no threat to human health.
Annie's, another company cited in the study, says it is looking for an alternative to BPA.