Water cooler talk may be bad for your health

Water-cooler No, not the actual conversation, but the water you drink from the cooler. What many socially minded employees may not know is that the plastic water jug on top of the cooler increases their exposure to a chemical known as Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a synthetic estrogen compound used as a hardening agent to manufacture polycarbonate plastics, the more durable plastic used to make 5 gallon water jugs. BPA has been in use in plastics for decades and was long thought to be safe for human consumption because it is metabolized quickly. More recently independent toxicology studies have shown that not only is Bisphenol A a potential health risk to humans, but that it can leach into water and food stored in plastic containers. BPA has been found to disrupt the endocrine system resulting in a variety of symptoms including reproductive abnormalities and impaired neurological functions.

A 2003 study by the CDC found BPA in 93% of the participants. While it is virtually impossible to avoid contact with BPA, you can reduce your exposure by avoiding using containers where the chemical may have leached into food or drinks.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has a helpful page that provides a number of ways to reduce exposure to BPA. Many companies now offer BPA free plastics that are much safer to use to store water and other beverages as well. So you can still plan on taking a bottle of water with you to the gym, just make sure to take along a re-usable bottle that is BPA free.