Posted July 30, 2014 by Matt in General Information

Why you should avoid coffee makers with BPA


isphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic compound used in a great variety of plastics and epoxies. You will most likely find several products with BPA in your home, but more alarmingly in your kitchen as well. BPA leach from the plastics into food and beverages and then we get exposed by ingesting the food.

Many people are concerned about products with BPA with reasonable cause due to the unclear messages from the government and manufactures.

The media coverage about BPA skyrocketed in 2008 after the U.S. government released reports questioning the health risks with high exposure of BPA. The outcome of the reports and following media coverage resulted in a lot of products with BPA disappeared from the store shelves, but there are still many products made with BPA today.

A report in 2010 from The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [reference 1, see bottom] raised further concerns about the already well debated BPA. The new scientific report concluded that exposure to BPA have adverse health effects especially for fetuses, infants and children.

What is Bisphenol A?

Bisphenol A is better known as just BPA and is an organic compound used as a chemical building block in some types of plastic and epoxy. BPA makes plastic and epoxy stronger, more heat resistance and durable. These properties make plastics and epoxies with BPA popular among manufacturers.

BPA moleculeOne of the most commonly used plastic with BPA is Polycarbonate. The reasons for the popularity of Polycarbonate is that it is easy to mold and shape, has a high temperature resistance, don’t easily shatter due to impacts and has good optical properties due to the clear plastic. All of these properties are desirable when manufacturers make coffee and espresso machines.

Other commonly used products with Polycarbonate are:

  • Food containers and water bottles.
  • Various kitchen appliances.
  • Medical and dental devices.
  • Sealants.
  • Various sports equipment and toys.
  • CDs and DVDs.
  • And a lot of different electric equipment in your home.

Epoxy resins which contain BPA are often used as coating inside food and beverage cans, water supply pipes and as other types of sealants.

BPA has been known to man since 1891 and already in 1930s it was suspected to be hazardous to humans. Even though we have suspected it to be hazardous for over 80 years it is still been used to make various products that comes in contact with our food.  One of the reasons plastic and epoxy with BPA is still widely used today is that manufacturers can’t find something as versatile and cheap to replace it with. I guess our health is not as important as the profit of the manufacturers!

Adverse health effects associated with BPA

What makes Bispenol A hazardous is that it can mimic some of our hormones and artificially affect genes. BPA can even cause cells to divide at abnormal rate. Since fetus and infants are developing and hormones are a vital part of this, they are especially at risk.

some concern for effects on brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current exposure levels to Bisphenol A

The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) [reference 2] has stated that they have “some concern for effects on brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current exposure levels to Bisphenol A

Even at very low levels of exposure to BPA our cells can be altered and unnaturally affect hormones and genes. The levels of exposure the scientist are speaking about is per trillion, but unfortunately we are currently facing exposure consistently 10 to 100 times greater than that.

Research on rodents exposed to BPA has shown some of the adverse health effects associated with BPA.  The results of the research are not very pleasant. These are the medical conditions we can now associate with exposure of BPA:

  • Sperm defects.
  • Decreased reproductive development.
  • Early puberty.
  • Diabetes.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Obesity.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Weakened immune system.

Plastis-recycling-classes-and-BPAHow to avoid BPA

Exposure to BPA is widespread and most of us get exposed everyday whether we like it or not. But there curtain things we can do to limit the exposure to some degree. Such precautions are to avoid plastic and epoxy which contain BPA by checking equipment and containers that comes in contact with our food and beverages.

Plastic products are labeled, at least they should be, with a recycling class. There are seven different recycling classes/ types that can tell you what kind of plastic is used. Polycarbonate and epoxy as we discuss above are both categorized in type 7 “Other”. You can also identify Polycarbonate by the two letter code “PC” which is usually located close to the recycling class symbol. Another plastic type which contains BPA is Polyvinylchloride, better known by its abbreviation PVC and it is labeled as type 3.

It is very difficult to avoid food and beverage that are wrapped or comes in a container made of plastic. As it can be equally difficult to find a modern coffee machine made without any plastic parts. The good news is that some plastic classes/ types don’t contain any BPA. These types are type 1 (PET), type 2 (HDPE), type 4 (LDPE), type 5 (Polypropylene) and type 6 (Polystyrene).

Although Polystyrene(type 6) is BPA-free, it contains other toxins that are dangerous to our nervous system. It also contains Carcinogen which are an agent causing cancer.

BPA and coffee machines

Plastics, as everything else, break down over time. When it comes to plastic containing BPA, it will release more and more BPA as it ages. If you expose the same plastic to high temperatures the aging process will be sped up, hence release more BPA faster.

A study regarding plastic bottles showed that new and old bottles with liquid content leach about the same amount of BPA in room temperature. But when the content of the bottles were changed with boiling water they released BPA up to 55 times faster.

So if you think about something like your coffee maker which is most likely to be used and exposed to heat every day, it will therefore release a lot of BPA fast. Your daily morning cup of coffee will be “full” of BPA, not a pleasant thought.

Don’t panic, there are coffee machines which is made of plastic without BPA. Unfortunately it can be a bit tricky to find them. I don’t know why, but manufacturers tend not to advertise if their product contains BPA or not.

If you are looking for a new drip coffee maker or single-serve brewer use google to search for “product name/ model” + “BPA free”. This way you can easily find out if the product contain BPA or not.

You can do the same for espresso machines as well. Another way is to look for an espresso machine with a metal boiler. The interior of espresso machines and their filters are usually made of metal to be able to withstand the pressure needed to brew espresso.

If I can’t find anything in the manual or recycling class markings on the product itself I usually send an email or give the manufacturers a call. You will either get the answer you want which is of course it does not contain BPA or you get something like this generic answer: “With regards to the content or construction to our product, please note that they are tested to ensure both quality and safety. The testing is conducted by both domestic and foreign regulatory agencies such as United Laboratories. While we cannot confirm the content of BPA in our products, they are safe and certified for consumer use.

Please feel free to have a look at some of my reviews if you are looking for a new coffee maker or espresso macine. I always label my reviews with either BPA-free or metal boiler if the product has these properties.