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Bisphenol-A: The Role of the Citizen

Introduction

Citizen Action

U.S. Federal BPA Policy

International BPA Policy

Conclusion

Useful Links


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abaltzer@macalester.edu

Bisphenol-A: The Role of the Citizen

International Bisphenol-A Policy

            International policies regarding BPA reflect the current national confusion around the topic.  Both the European Union and Japan allow for the use of BPA.  The recent BPA safety assessments preformed by the European Food Safety’s Authority’s Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Material in Contact with Food and the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology agree with FDA’s current stance on the safety of BPA “at the current exposure level.”[1] [2]  In fact, after the European Food Safety Authority’s recent reevaluation of BPA, it raised the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of BPA from .01milligrams/kg of bodyweight/day to .05milligrams/kg of bodyweight/day “due to the substantial scientific evidence now available.”[3]

            However, on April 18, 2008, Canada became the first nation to officially declare BPA toxic, and the country will likely introduce a complete ban within a year on the use of BPA in the manufacture of baby bottles.  Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement said his country will likely be the first to entirely ban the import and production of baby bottles that contain BPA.[4]

            Canadian official are not privy to BPA studies that the United States or Europe do not have access to.  So, to understand the discrepancies between the nations’ BPA policies, one has to understand the enormous complexity and the subsequent uncertainty involved around BPA research.  BPA research has yet to provide a definite conclusion without uncertainty that proves the safety or toxicity of BPA at current exposure levels.  Increasing this uncertainty further is Frederick vom Saal’s recent and somewhat controversial toxicological paradigm shift that casts considerable doubt on past research that supports BPA.  The different ways in which nations choose to react to this uncertainty is the cause of these radically different BPA policies.

              Canada’s reaction to this uncertainty is much more cautious. Canada chose to declare BPA toxic until it is proven safe.  Canadian Health Minister, Tony Clement stated, “Although our science tells us that exposure levels to newborns and infants are below the level that cause effects, we believe that the current safety margin needs to be higher.  We have concluded that it is better to be safe than sorry.”[5]  However, U.S. policy allows for the use of BPA until it is proven unsafe. 

            Canada’s recent decision has been heralded by U.S. citizens and citizen watchdog organizations as one step closer towards the creation of  a similar ban in the U.S. based on a similar reaction to the enormous uncertainty around BPA.  Rick Smith, executive director of Canada’s Environmental Defense stated,  "Canada's leadership on bisphenol A is having a spinoff effect internationally.  It has now become clear that Canada's action is the beginning of the end for this toxic chemical beyond our borders."[6]  In response to Canada’s recent decision and the recent opinion of the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), Frederick vom Saal stated, “The bottom line is there really is a convergence of opinion that is occurring."[7]



[1] "Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC) Related to 2,2-BIS(4-HYDROXYPHENYL)PROPANE." EFSA. 29 Nov. 2006. 14 Apr. 2008 <http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1178620772817.htm>.

[2] "Comprehensive Japanese Risk Assessment on Bisphenol a Confirms No Risk to Human Health or Environment." Bisphenol-A. 20 Mar. 2006. 14 Apr. 2008 <http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20060320.html>.

[3] "EFSA Re-Evaluates Safety of Bisphenol a and Sets Tolerable Daily Intake." European Food Safety Authority. 29 Jan. 2007. 18 Apr. 2008 <http://64.233.167.104/search?q=cache:JKqDDRTq1zQJ:www.efsa.europa.eu/
EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1178620835386.htm+european+
union+BPA+TDI&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=us&client=firefox-a
>.

[4] Kissinger, Meg. "Canada Declares Bisphenol a Toxic." The Kansas City Star 18 Apr. 2008. 20 Apr. 2008 <http://www.kansascity.com/400/story/582359.html>.

[5] "Canada to Ban BPA Baby Bottles." PhysOrg. 18 Apr. 2008. 20 Apr. 2008 <http://www.physorg.com/news127749044.html>.

[6] Kissinger, Meg, and Susanne Rust. "Canada Says Plastic in Water Bottles is Unsafe." Journal Sentinel 18 Apr. 2008. 24 Apr. 2008 <http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=741021>.

[7] Cone, Marla. "Chemical in Plastic May Harm Human Growth." Los Angeles Times 16 Apr. 2007. 20 Apr. 2008 <http://www.latimes.com/features/health/medicine/la-na-plastic16apr16,1,498138.story>.

Tolerable Daily Intake Defined: A tolerable daily intake (TDI) is the amount of a substance that can be consumed from all sources each day by an adult, even for a lifetime, without any significant increased risk to health.



Last updated:  5/5/2008

 


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