Bisphenol-A: The Role of the Citizen
Introduction: The Bisphenol-A Controversy
As both consumers
and citizens, we trust our government to regulate industry and set policy in
ways that will protect us. Because of
the myriad potential dangers facing us everyday, we are unable to sufficiently
inform ourselves of every threat today’s world poses and must instead allow the
government to do the research and regulation for us. However, we have begun to realize that our
government may be failing in its duty to protect its citizens when it comes to
regulating the thousands of chemicals used in billions of household products
nationwide. Specifically, the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration’s current regulation, or lack thereof, of the potentially
toxic chemical bisphenol-a or BPA is increasingly becoming mired in controversy.
website will examine the source of the controversy and the public’s confusion
around BPA. It will examine role of the
public – both independent researchers and concerned citizens – in bringing
about change by taking action in the absence of governmental action or
leadership. It will then delve more
deeply into the controversy around the FDA’s bisphenol-a policy that the public
is responsible for shedding light upon. Although
federal BPA policy had not changed, governmental organizations are beginning to
give under the weight of citizen pressure and outcry.
of BPA and its Use
Currently, the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows for the use of the potentially-toxic
chemical BPA in the production of billions of household products. In fact, more than six billion pounds of this
chemical are produced annually in the United States.
is used to make polycarbonate plastic – a lightweight, shatter-resistant,
transparent plastic that is used in products such as CDs, baby bottles, water
bottles and toys – and epoxy resins that are used in dental sealants and to line
canned foods such as canned vegetables and many baby formulas.
BPA was first
synthesized by chemists in the laboratory in 1891 and was used in the 1930s as
a synthetic estrogen. In the 1940s, it
was found that BPA could be used to make the hard plastic, polycarbonate. As a result of this discovery, in the next 70
years, the use of this synthetic estrogen by the plastic industry exploded. Because of its estrogenic properties, BPA
acts as an endocrine disruptor meaning it can
cause brain and behavior problems, impaired immune functions, early puberty, breast
cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes, and hyperactivity at certain dosage levels. Developing fetuses, infants and toddlers are
most at-risk of damage because of their decreased ability to metabolize the
the omnipresence of products containing this chemical, its widespread use especially
in products used for the most vulnerable infants and toddlers, and the
potential for adverse health effects, the U.S. FDA continues to allow its use. This is because the levels at which BPA is
though to leach from plastic products and epoxy resins into food supplies is
thought to be lower than the level that causes damage to the human body. However, this policy and the science behind it
are increasingly coming under attack from citizen watchdog groups, independent
researchers, consumers, and most recently, the U.S. House of Representatives’
Committee on Commerce and Energy.
the U.S. is not alone in its
policy that allows the use of BPA; research done by the European Union and Japan supports the FDA’s stance, and these
countries share the same BPA policy with the U.S. However, Canadian policy has recently shifted
to declare BPA a toxin, and individual U.S. states are pushing for the ban
of BPA in products intended for use by infants and toddlers.
Image 1: An array of water bottles potetially containing BPA