Bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA, is an organic compound with two phenol functional groups used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, along with other applications.
Known to be estrogenic since the mid 1930s, concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products were regularly reported in the news media in 2008 after several governments issued reports questioning its safety, thus prompting some retailers to remove products containing it from their shelves. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised further concerns regarding exposure of fetuses, infants and young children. Effective 23 September 2010, Canada became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance.
Bisphenol A is an endocrine disruptor, which can mimic the body's own hormones and may lead to negative health effects. Early development appears to be the period of greatest sensitivity to its effects. Regulatory bodies have determined safety levels for humans, but those safety levels are currently being questioned or under review as a result of new scientific studies.
In 2009 The Endocrine Society released a scientific statement expressing concern over current human exposure to BPA.
Disruption of the dopaminergic system
Prostate development and cancer
Reproductive system and sexual behavior
Mounting evidence against a chemical we are exposed to daily is being ignored. What more do regulators need, ask David Melzer and Tamara Galloway
THREE letters lie at the heart of our modern world: BPA. Short for bisphenol A, a synthetic oestrogen, a staggering 3 billion kilograms of the stuff is produced annually, with an estimated value of $500,000 per hour to the global economy.
BPA is used in the production of a hard and transparent form of polycarbonate plastic used to create food and drink containers and other consumer goods. It is also used in the epoxy resins that line metal food cans, and as an ingredient in dental sealants.
In fact, we are so consistently exposed to BPA that over 90 per cent of us excrete BPA metabolites in our urine at any given time. How exactly BPA enters the human body is not yet clear, although eating food kept in BPA-containing packaging, breathing household dust and handling plastics that contain BPA may all contribute to our daily exposure. Currently, BPA is not listed on food or drink labels so millions of people have no way of knowing their daily exposure.
What do I need to know about bisphenol-A?
Bisphenol-A is one of a large number of substances that may have the potential to interact with our hormone systems.
These substances are referred to as 'endocrine disrupters'. Research is still going on to establish whether or not bisphenol-A has this effect in humans.
Are there rules to protect consumers?
Yes. The European Framework Regulation (EC) No. 1935/2004 on Materials and Articles Intended to come into Contact with Foodstuffs lays down the general safety requirements for all materials and articles. These regulations require that materials and articles containing BPA, such as some can coatings, do not make food harmful. The regulations also make sure that they do not change the nature, substance or quality of the food.
The Plastic Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2009 permit the use of BPA in the manufacture of plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food, provided that no more than 0.6 mg/kg migrates into the food.
I have read about some people’s concerns about BPA in the press. Does the Agency share these concerns?
The Agency has met with representatives from Breast Cancer UK and the Cancer Prevention and Education Society to discuss their concerns around the use of BPA. The Agency's Head of Chemical Risk Assessment, Dr Diane Benford, described the Agency’s position on this matter and this is outlined in the document below. We will update this website following the publication of the European Food Safety Authority’s current review into BPA.
A new report grades companies on getting BPA out of cans. Whole Foods scores a D+.
Our government may not have done much to ban or regulate the use of BPA in our food packaging, but some companies are taking the initiative to banish the toxic chemical. These companies aren't just the mom-and-pop home kitchen jam shops or smaller eco-friendly food companies. Biggies like Hain Celestial, ConAgra and H.J. Heinz all got A's for their leadership in getting BPA out of their packaging.
Of the 84,000 chemicals on the market today -- many of which are in objects that people come into contact with every day -- only about 1 percent of them have been studied for safety, Sen. Frank Lautenberg said Tuesday.
Bisphenol-A (BPA), known as the "gender bending" chemical because of its connection to male impotence, has now been shown to decrease sperm mobility and quality. The findings are likely to increase pressure on governments around the world to follow Canada and ban the substance from our shelves.
BPA has already been banned in Canada and three US states.
Bottles and cans containing the chemical have been linked to breast cancer, heart disease, obesity, hyperactivity and other disorders.
Most manufacturers of baby bottles have stopped putting it in their products but older stock containing the chemical is still on sale.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supports its removal and has stated concerns regarding the impact of the chemical on babies and young children.
It can affect disorders associated with metabolism, fertility and neural development.
Although FDA has yet to act to tighten safety standards, 2 Congressional investigations have been launched to shed light on industry influence of government science evaluations, and Wal-Mart and other retailers are pulling BPA-containing products off of store shelves. The major events that have transformed our understanding of this chemical, shown its potential role in human health problems, and revealed industry's inside fight to keep it on the market despite the health risks are described below.
1891: BPA is invented.
Chemists synthesize the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in the laboratory.
1930’s: First evidence of BPA toxicity.
Scientists discover that BPA is an artificial estrogen (Dodds 1938). Its use as a pharmaceutical hormone is precluded by the invention of another synthetic chemical, DES, with even more potent estrogenic properties. (DES was later taken off the market when it was linked to reproductive cancers in girls born to mothers taking DES during pregnancy, in retrospect an early warning signal for the similar toxic properties confirmed for BPA many years later).
1940’s and 1950's: New use of BPA in plastic.
The chemical industry begins to use BPA to manufacture a hard plastic called polycarbonate, and to make epoxy resins used as linings for metal food cans and a variety of other products. Although BPA leaches out of plastic long after its manufacture, the material is used in consumer products with no requirement that companies prove it is safe. The 70 years that follow BPA's introduction in these industries see the explosion of BPA-based plastics to encompass products as wide-ranging as bicycle helmets, water coolers, and baby bottles.