Got a green dilemma? Ask me! I'll be answering a new question each week.
Q: I heard recently that eyeglass frames have BPA in them. I wear reading glasses constantly. Is this something I should be worried about? If so, where can I find BPA-free glasses? —Cathy Boucher
A: You are right to be alert to the dangers of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a suspected hormone-disrupting chemical that has been found to leach from polycarbonate (PC #7) plastics. Evidence keeps implicating BPA in human health problems from diabetes and obesity to fetal brain development and childhood learning disorders. BPA is ubiquitous and has been found in everyday products—from sports and baby bottles and plastic food containers to canned food linings, dental sealants and, yes, even eyewear with PC frames.
However, even if your eyeglasses do contain BPA, you are probably quite safe from toxic exposures—unless you chew on them. Most of our exposure to BPA comes from ingesting it in food and drink, according to the National Institutes of Health, so our avoidance efforts are best concentrated on food and drink containers. (Many studies show that heating plastics in microwaves or subjecting them to wear and tear can cause the release of BPA. Even so-called BPA-free plastic food and drink containers have been found to release the chemical.)
If you’re a chewer, protect yourself with frames that have plastic-free ear rests such as these sustainable bamboo ones by Amy Sacks. Her chic glasses are all reasonably priced, and part of the proceeds go to support animal welfare.
When buying new eyewear, ask vendors what sort of plastic the frames are made of. If it’s PC, give it a pass. It’s always a good idea to avoid buying new products made with virgin plastic, which is made from non-renewable petroleum, and polycarbonate especially.
Here are some alternate materials I recommend:
Steel or aluminum (Watch out for nickel—a common allergen.)
- Earth Conscious Optics eyewear is made from 95 percent recycled steel and plastic and also gives 1% to the planet. If you join their One Frame One Tree program, they’ll plant a tree for each purchase you make.)
- Blue Planet surf-stylin’ shades are made with 65 percent recycled materials.
Mindy Pennybacker is Whole Living’s eco expert. She regularly answers readers' green-living questions. She is also editor of GreenerPenny.com and author of Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices.