In the fall of 2008, the government of Canada declared its intention to ban the use of Bisphenol A, or BPA, in the manufacture of baby bottles. It has also started work on legislation to minimize the amount of Bispenol A used in the lining of baby formula cans.
What is Bisphenol A and How is It Used?
Bisphenol A is a chemical that is used to make plastic more rigid, or more flexible. It has been used in the manufacture of water bottles, baby bottles, childrens’ toys, soda pop and food can linings, fire retardants, and even dental sealants. Many other household and industrial products are also made with BPA, such as CDs. However, authorities believe that the public is not at risk for harmful exposure to this chemical, through everyday use.
Why is Bisphenol A Now Considered a Problem?
Bisphenol A is a synthetic estrogen. Heat, or volatile oils, will easily cause the the chemical to leach out of a product, and into food or liquids; potentially resulting in health problems. Health Canada is concerned that the BPA which is now in the wastewater, and landfill, will eventually leach out and damage fish and aquatic life. There is also the question of it making its way into the drinking water.
Although Health Canada’s studies of BPA levels in everyday products have been found to be of low risk to the public, they are worried about the potential harm it could have on an infant.
Should Low Level Exposures be a Concern?
There is a lot of debate about the effects of Bisphenol A on the human body. The biggest challenge seems to be in presenting irrefutable evidence that it is, in fact, harmful even at low levels. Correlations have been made between higher exposures of BPA in adult humans, and higher risks for heart attacks, and Diabetes II. However, as long as adult exposures to BPA do not exceed acceptable levels, then there seems to be no impetus for change.
Experiments done on animals by Yale University, and Case Western Reserve University, have shown some alarming results. Bisphenol A was an endocrine disruptor. Also, low exposures to it promoted the growth of breast, and ovarian cancer cells. Finally, Bisphenol A caused significant changes to the brain and reproductive functioning of developing mice; particularly with males.
What about Exposures of Bisphenol A in Children?
A recent study done by the University of Guelph has found some alarming facts about infants’ exposure to Bisphenol A. Researchers mathematically calculated the amount of BPA that would be present in the body of an infant, assuming that the exposure to BPA would be identical. The enzymes required to break down the chemical in the body are smaller in an infant, and need to be taken in account.
The result of their findings showed that infants actually had about 11 times more BPA in their systems, than adults. This study also mirrored the findings of one conducted on humans in the previous year, which indicated that the level of BPA in children was 10 times higher than the levels in adults.
What Should a Cost/Benefit Analysis on Toxins Include?
It is simply not possible to conduct human trials on a dangerous substance. The merits of Bisphenol A, have been very well documented. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? The adverse effects of BPA are cumulative over time, as it is present in so many materials, and breaks down slowly in anaerobic situations. Its prevalence means that it cannot be considered safe at any level. The choice seems to be to ban its use in all applications. Many plastics are made without BPA, or other chemicals that mimic estrogen. What is the logic in using a stabilizer that is so easily destabilized?
For More Information on Bisphenol A
Environmental Health Perspectives is a peer-reviewed journal that examines health and environmental issues. It also publishes its content online, free of charge. Information on phthalates, or esters that are used in the manufacture of plastics, can be accessed by topic; and should be read by anyone who is concerned about Bisphenol A.