Plastic, BPA and Your Dog

Categories: Dog Health

By Jennifer Lueck

What is BPA?
BisphenalA, or BPA, is a chemical building block that is used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. It is commonly found in plastic bottles and food can liners.

Is it safe?
There is a lot of controversy about whether BPA is safe for humans. It has been shown that more than 90% of Americans have detectable BPA in their bodies. The FDA issued a draft assessment in 2008 saying that BPA was safe. Shortly thereafter, the National Toxicology Program disagreed, saying that exposure during critical times may lead to certain health effects, including behavioral problems like ADD and ADHD, diabetes, reproductive disorders, developments of certain kinds of cancers, asthma and cardiovascular disease. The FDA now agrees there are some health concerns with BPA and are advising Americans to take “reasonable steps” to avoid BPA. The January 2010 update on the FDA website states that low level exposure to BPA is safe for humans, but they have “concerns” about the “potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children.”

How can you tell if plastic has BPA in it?
The easiest way is to look at the recycling symbol. Types 1 (PET), 2(HDPE), 4 (LDPE), 5 (polypropylene)and 6 (polystyrene) do not use BPA during polymerization. Type 3(PVC) can contain BPA, but is limited to “flexible PVC.” Type 7 is the catch-all for all other kinds of plastic. Some type 7 plastics, such as polycarbonate and epoxy resins are made from BPA monomer. If you are buying a plastic product and it has a 3 or 7 recycling code on it, look for the words “BPA-Free” before you buy it.

If you find that you have plastic food or beverage containers of type 3 or 7 and want to continue to use them, do not put very hot food or liquid in them because BPA levels rise in food as the chemical in the plastic is heated and comes into contact with food. Discard all plastic containers or bottles that have scratches because they can harbor bacteria, and if they contain BPA, the scratches can lead to a greater release of BPA.

BPA and your dog
It appears that no studies have been done on the exposure level of BPA in dogs . It stands to reason, however, that if humans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies, dogs do as well. Just think of all the plastic dogs come into contact in their lives: plastic food and water bowls, water bottles, plastic dog toys, plastic doggy doors, the white epoxy lining in canned dog food, etc. One very easy way to limit your dog’s exposure to BPA is to switchfrom plastic food and water bowls to stainless steel or ceramic. I went to several stores where plastic dog bowls are sold and checked the recycling symbols. Not one bowl had a recycling symbol on it! My feeling is, unless the bowl specifically says it is BPA free, don’t risk it.

Another reason to avoid plastic dishes is that some dogs can develop plastic dish dermatitis, which is an irritation of the skin, particularly of the nose. Some dogs also get pimples from eating anddrinking from plastic dishes.

If you store your dog’s kibble in a plastic container, it is best to store the food in the bag it came in inside the container. Doing so will limit the contact the food has with the plastic and also prevent spoiled food that might be in the container from contaminating the new food. In addition, keeping the dog food bag means you will have the manufacturing and contact information if there is a recall or if your dog gets sick.

It is unclear at this time just how serious the threat to our health BPA really is. Until we know for sure if it is truly safe or dangerous, I believe we should follow the advice of the FDA and take reasonable steps to avoid BPA exposure to the humans and dogs in our families.