New Study Quantifies BPA's High Costs

A canned food chemical is costing American billions. (Yeah, that's billions with a "b.")

January 22, 2014


We've got a healthcare crisis in a can, folks.


You may already know that BPA (aka bisphenol A) is a bad-news chemical that affects almost every facet of our health, from fertility and cancer risk to body weight and behavioral problems. But a first-of-its kind study is now able to estimate BPA costs associated with not just our health, but our country's financial well-being, too.

In a new study published in the journal Health Affairs, New York University School of Medicine researcher Leonardo Trasande, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, environmental medicine, and health policy, taps into the Institute of Medicine's methods for quantifying environmental attributable costs for diseases to estimate BPA's economic damage.

The analysis uses these guidelines to figure out the health and economic costs BPA creates by fueling childhood obesity and coronary heart disease in adults. BPA is linked to all sorts of devastating ailments, but the evidence is particularly strong for these two conditions.

The hefty price tag? Nearly $3 billion in social costs—and that's just looking at 2008. According to Dr. Trasande's estimates, published in the journal Health Affairs, that's an economic burden potentially greater than the costs of replacing BPA with a heart-friendly, non-obesogenic replacement.

Fast Facts
• BPA is found in most metal food and beverage containers, some No. 7 polycarbonate plastics, dental fillings, and thermal cash-register receipts.
• More than a million pounds of BPA are produced annually, but it only takes minute doses at critical points of our lives to cause irreversible health effects.
• Dr. Trasande's study suggests we could enjoy $1.74 billion in economic benefits while preventing 22,000 cases of new coronary heart disease and 6,000 childhood obesity cases if we'd switch to a safer BPA substitute for food and beverage container linings.
• BPA-fueled obesity in children cost the country $27 million in additional health care costs in 2008, according to this study.
• Transande's model found that many obese kids remain obese in adulthood, creating $489 million in healthcare costs through their adulthood.
• A mixture of oil and resin extracted from plants (oleoresin) would cost just 2.2 cents more than a BPA lining in cans and could be used for many food and drink products without these harmful effects. (It just wouldn't work on acidic products like tomatoes.)

Avoid BPA
• Don't use plastic utensils or plastic beverage and food containers.
• If you must use plastic cookware or glasses, avoid heating them in the dishwasher or microwave. This accelerates leaching.
• Don't always trust BPA replacements. The most popular, BPS, has been found to be just as toxic—if not more so—than BPA.
• Avoid canned food, including soup. In 2011, Harvard researchers found that eating canned soup daily led to a tenfold increase in BPA levels in urine.

For more reasons to eradicate BPA from your life, check out 5 Weird Things BPA's Doing to Your Body.