There's a blatant correlation between earning a low income and being in poor health. That has never been in doubt. In this modern world, the likelihood of a person being obese, having asthma, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes all increase the less money that person makes. But the big question that's been puzzling researchers for years is, why is this the case?
Is it that low income earners have less education regarding how food affects their health? Is it the food desert crisis in which poor neighborhoods are left without access to quality foods? Is it simply the fact that higher-quality foods cost more money, and that's specifically what lower income people don't have? Or, more insidiously, do politicians simply not care about looking out for the less fortunate among us because they don't have money to contribute to their campaign coffers? As is the case in most complex questions, the answer is in the realm of "All of the Above."
But there's an as-yet-explored possibility that's lurking in the margins, and one that may have greater implications for the rest of us: The poor are exposed to more BPAs.
Bisphenol A, according to the Wikipedia entry, is "a man-made carbon-based synthetic compound" that is used to create the lining material found in a lot of canned foods. And if you've ever walked into a small mom-and-pop bodega in a less desirable part of town, you know that they're chock full of 'em. This is because canned foods generally cost a whole lot less to produce and store, meaning that families with lower incomes rely heavily on them for their meals. Now, this wouldn't be a problem if said BPA-laden lining was benign. But instead, BPAs have the ability to "leach" onto the food inside of the cans and spread into the bodies of the people eating. This is where things get dangerous.
Studies have been coming out for years regarding the negative effects that BPAs have on the body: It's been linked to childhood obesity. It increases inflammation in fat tissue in babies after their birth. It messes with the testosterone levels of baby boys. It has been found to increase the risk of prostate cancer. All of which are studies that led to, and later helped reinforce, the FDA's decision to ban BPAs from all baby bottles and sippy cups. But seeing as every anti-BPA study that gets released is met with a response from another spectrum of the scientific community stating that BPAs are nothing to worry about, the FDA continues to allow them to be used in everything else. This reality, however, may be coming to an end.
In June, Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey introduced a bill that would fully ban the material from all food containers. While it remains to be seen how this will be voted upon, a press release from Markey regarding his bill opens with an alarming fact:
BPA... is so prevalent in household items that more than 90 percent of the U.S. population has traces of it in their urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meaning that while low income households may have to worry about BPA exposure more than other sections of the earning spectrum because of their reliance on canned foods, this is something that affects us all. To help, the Mayo Clinic has a handful of useful tips for avoiding BPAs, among which is alerting readers to look out for plastics with the recycle codes of 3 or 7, because there's a good chance those have BPAs.
Which is all to say, keep an eye on your local representatives in regards to how they're voting on Markey's bill once it comes up in Congress. Shoot them an email with your wishes, if you'd like. And, once again, make sure to keep an eye on your own food labels.