avatar Catrina Damrell- EHSC volunteer

BPA-free Food for the Holidays

My girlfriends and I host a fortnightly potluck, mainly so we can use the term fortnightly, and it has become the highlight of every two weeks for me. At the most recent gathering, I decided to make a pumpkin pie from scratch (all but the pie crust, which I bought an all natural frozen pie crust). Little did I know, I was saving my friends and myself from an alarming dosage of BPA.

Last week the Breast Cancer Fund released a report focusing on the widespread reach of BPA in the linings of canned food. This comes at a time when a lot of us are reaching for the can of creamed corn or pumpkin purée, partaking in the nationwide culinary extravaganza known as Thanksgiving.

So what’s all the fuss about BPA? BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, mimicking estrogen in our bodies. This reaction can lead to increase risk of breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early onset of puberty in females, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and ADHD.1 If this has been proven in the lab, why is BPA still used in the linings of cans? It is a component of the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans and glass jar lids, creating a seal that prevents the food from bacterial contamination.2 Unfortunately, the use of BPA is a catch 22, preventing one food problem and creating another.

As conscious Maine consumers and family members, what sort of options remain for avoiding a chemical that seems to have infiltrated its way into nearly every food container? Despite the ongoing annual transition to the frozen tundra called the Maine Winter, the farmers markets across the state boast fresh, local, BPA-free produce. I called up Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth to ask about what produce they were bringing to the markets and the list seemed endless, from potatoes, carrots, onions, to kale, lettuce, and brussel sprouts. They informed me that they set up at Portland’s farmers market at Monument Square on Wednesdays, and also South Portland’s winter farmers market at the new city planning & development building. These days it is also possible to use your SNAP (food stamps) or WIC dollars to purchase fresh foods at farmer’s market. The Lewiston Farmer’s Market even offers a deal that doubles the value of WIC or SNAP dollars when they are used to buy local nutritional food.

If going to the farmer’s market won’t fit into your schedule (it generally doesn’t in mine), but you still would like to support local farmers and protect your family from BPA — consider joining a CSA or cooperative where food is packaged and either delivered to your house or a pick up location weekly. The Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative is one of the largest cooperatives in Maine, sourcing farmers and people across the state. There are numerous ways to get involved in the local food scene across the state, and it’s a great way to meet more people concerned about similar issues.

I don’t mean to disregard already packaged pumpkin purées or gravy, in fact – it’s a heck of a lot easier than making it yourself. TetraPak is a company that’s renovating the packaging industry with its sustainably-sourced paper. Nearly every Thanksgiving staple can be found ready to go in TetraPak and other BPA-free containers. Here’s a great guide of products to look out for from the folks at Safer Choices.

All in all, knowledge is power and ensuring a healthy, non-toxic Thanksgiving begins with informed decisions. And while you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table, you can also discuss other ways we could get chemicals like BPA out of our food packaging — like passing laws that prevent those chemicals from being added in the first place.

Have a great holiday!

1. Breast Cancer Fund (2011). BPA in Thanksgiving Canned Food.

avatar Blog Admin

A helpful guide to safer sleeping

A new report just out from Clean and Healthy New York finds that only 20% of all crib mattresses on the market are free from toxic chemicals. At the same time, misleading labels may not give consumers the full story on what goes into the making of their baby’s mattress.

At an event at The Clean Bedroom in Kittery, Maine, where concerned consumers discussed the new report, Chris Chamberlain, co-founder of the store, said “my husband and I started this company because we believe every mother in the world should know what they are putting their child on at night.” Her store carries some of the few (only 8%) of mattress brands on the market that avoid chemicals of concern and all allergens.

As a mom, this is the kind of consumer guide I wish existed for all my kid’s products. The report gives a complete breakdown of the pros and cons of various mattress materials. When it comes to toxicity, it seemed to me that flame retardants were really the thing to look out for. The two most commonly used in mattresses, antimony and HFRS, can cause pretty serious health problems. But wool, when woven or packed tightly, is naturally fire-resistant. So when choosing a crib mattress, look for wool or hydrated silica used as flame retardants, neither of which are toxic.

When it comes to the mattress cover, even cotton and wool may be treated with waterproofing, antibacterial and flame-retardant chemicals, none of which are necessary and may be harmful. To be safest, look for organic cotton or wool covers. A full 40% of the mattresses studied use vinyl coverings, which I would avoid at all costs. Even when covered in organic cotton sheets, the vinyl coating can off-gas and potentially harm your baby’s health.

Read the full report here to learn how you — and your baby — can rest easier.

EHSC joins moms and representatives of The Clean Bedroom store for Thursday's release of Mattress Matters - a new report from Clean and Healthy New York