Who Cares About BPA? Canned Beer Is More Popular Than Ever

Nobody should be drinking canned beer. Period. But it is particularly bad for young women.

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A six pack of beer
Cooperphoto / Getty Images

Remember Bisphenol A? A few years ago everyone was getting rid of their polycarbonate bottles because there was so much fear that Bisphenol A (BPA) was leaching from them. SIGG, a company that sold aluminum water bottles, was almost run off the market when it was found out that it lined its bottles with an epoxy made with BPA. People were returning them in droves and its North American distributor ended up in bankruptcy. BPA, in small doses, has been linked to obesity, early onset of puberty, diabetes, heart disease, reduced penis size, growth of male breasts, and even mean girls.

Yet once again we read that more people are drinking canned beer, every single one of which is lined with BPA-laden epoxy to keep the beer from tasting like aluminum. Beppi Crosariol writes in the Globe and Mail that it is a major wave in brewing.

In the trend-setting U.S. market, cans in the craft-beer segment grew to 28.5 per cent of packaged production last year, up from about 12 per cent in 2012, according to the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association, which represents more than 4,000 small and independent producers...Elsewhere in the craft world, from Europe to South America to Australia, aluminum is on a roll. In Britain, where the metal cylinders go by the slang term “tinnies,” sales of craft beer in cans shot up 327 per cent between January, 2017 and August, 2017, according to market tracker Nielsen. Cans in Britain now represent a quarter of craft beer sold at retail.

BPA-Tainted Craft Beer

This is all possible because of the invention of "microcanning" equipment – mobile canning lines that can be rented to small breweries. Now everybody is buying canned beer, even in countries with strong bottle recovery and refilling systems. It's nonsensical; people who would spit out water from a polycarbonate bottle will drink BPA-tainted beer.

Even sources like Beer Advocate note that this could be a problem – the stuff is a hormone that was once considered for birth control, really, what are people thinking?

BPA has a dark side. Biologically speaking, the compound looks eerily similar to estrogen, meaning it can act like estrogen, a powerful hormone, if it gets into the body. When ingested, tasteless and odorless BPA can disrupt biological processes and interfere with the reproductive and nervous systems as well as behavioral development, especially in infants with underdeveloped digestive systems that insufficiently metabolize the chemical. That’s why the US Food and Drug Administration has banned BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups, and packaging for infant formula.

The BPA industry and beer companies all say that BPA is safe. The industry says that the amount one gets from drinking beer "is more than 450 times lower than the maximum acceptable or 'reference' dose for BPA of 0.05 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency." And we all trust the EPA!

Sierra Nevada beer repeats this EPA stuff on its website that "some studies show that you’d have to eat and drink the contents of roughly 450 cans per day, every day, to ingest enough BPA from a can liner to reach unsafe levels." But they conclude that, "in our opinion, the benefits of cans—portability, lower carbon footprint, recyclability, and absolute protection from light and oxygen—outweigh the risk."

Back at the Globe and Mail, Beppi Crosariol lists the reasons that cans have become popular.

Producers list a litany of other advantages that have struck a chord with millennials in particular, including, not least, the extra space on cans for punchy graphics, which also offer brewers a point of differentiation in the crowded craft-beer market. Some, playing the virtue card, boast that metal is infinitely recyclable and that lightweight aluminum results in a smaller carbon footprint as beer gets trucked to market.

Don't Choose Canned Beer

bpa in beer
 Government of Canada/Public Domain

This is wrong on so many levels. Ignore the fact that refillable bottles, as you can get in most of the world outside the USA, have a lower carbon footprint and greater recyclability; there is no virtue card. And face the fact that by drinking beer in a can, you are getting micro-doses of BPA (a Canadian study proved it) and that because it is a hormone, some studies have shown that it only takes a few molecules to cause trouble. Millennial moms-to-be are consuming an "ovarian toxicant" that could cause their sons to get prostate cancer.

 © Joe Mohr

There is no viable alternative to BPA epoxies at this time. The science still is not clear about how bad BPA is for adults, but there are good reasons that it has been banned for some uses and that nobody buys polycarbonate bottles anymore. But as I keep asking, until there is an alternative, why does anyone take the risk of drinking canned beer?

Why would people who threw away their Nalgene bottles because of BPA willingly get the same stuff from their beer? I will never understand this.

You should not be drinking canned beer. Period.