//About 3,7 million tons of Bisphenol A are produced every year worldwide. BPA has been used in babies' drinks bottles and teats in addition to food packaging. The largest producers are Sunoco, Dow, Bayer, Hexion and GE. Bayer has a 25% market share in the US.//
Canwest News Service, April 13, 2009
Health Canada makes it official: BPA is health hazard
OTTAWA - Canada on Saturday will become the first country to formally declare bisphenol A hazardous to human health and officially inform the baby-product industry it will no longer be able to use the chemical in baby bottles.
Canada's announcement comes six months after Health Minister Tony Clement surprised the chemical industry by announcing the government's plan to place bisphenol A on its list of toxic substances and ban its use in baby bottles.
In unveiling the "precautionary and prudent" move, Clement proposed a limited ban of the widely used chemical, also found in hard plastic sports bottles and the lining of food cans.
Most Canadians "need not be concerned" about the health effects of bisphenol A, Clement said at the time. "This is not the case for newborns and infants."
The government's final decision will appear in the Canada Gazette, which publishes the official regulations of the government.
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence and co-author of the forthcoming book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, said the expected declaration is a "good start."
But he said new evidence continues to pile up, pointing to the detrimental health effects of bisphenol A on adults.
"There's new science coming out on a weekly basis pointing to this chemical being a health concern for adults. Baby bottles are a good start, but the government now needs to take a look at getting this chemical out of the lining in cans."
The latest research, the first large BPA study in humans published last month by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, found a "significant relationship" between exposure to the ubiquitous estrogenic chemical and heart disease, diabetes and liver problems.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is under fire after determining last month in a draft report that BPA was safe for food storage. On Thursday, the Washington Post published an editorial arguing the FDA's final recommendation, expected this month, could be "seen as less than fully independent."
The influential newspaper cited the recent donation of $5 million to the University of Michigan's Risk Science Center from Charles Gelman, the retired head of a medical device manufacturing company and outspoken proponent of bisphenol A.
The acting director of the university centre is Martin Philbert, a toxicologist who is also head of the FDA advisory panel poised to deliver its risk assessment of BPA.
Philbert did not disclose the gift to the agency as part of the disclosure process when he was appointed to the panel; he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel he did not need to, since he does not stand to gain from it. The FDA is looking into a possible conflict of interest. By Sarah Schmidt,
Democrats weigh ban on plastics' chemical in bottles, canned food amid safety concerns
June 10, 2008 - Some Democratic lawmakers pushed Tuesday for a ban on a chemical used in water bottles, canned food and other household items, despite mixed opinions from government experts about the substance's possible risks.
Bisphenol A has been used to package food and make shatterproof bottles for decades. But in recent years the plastic hardener has come under attack from consumer groups, who point to animal studies showing it can cause developmental problems and precancerous growths.
Rep. Edward Markey, introduced a bill Tuesday to ban the chemical in all food and drink containers. Senate lawmakers already have drafted a proposal that would go further, banning the substance from all food containers and children's products.
Government scientists from various agencies gave mixed assessments of the chemical's risks at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. The committee's top Democrats have been investigating the government's handling of bisphenol A and a related chemical family phthalates, which are used to soften plastic.
The levels of bisphenol "from food contact materials, including exposures for infants and children, are well below the levels that may cause health effects," said Norris Alderson, the Food and Drug Administration's associate director for science.
But the agency has agreed to reevaluate the chemical's safety after an April report by government toxicology experts concluded there is "some concern" about whether bisphenol can change infant's hormone levels, brain development and lead to early puberty in girls.
In response to the report, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it planned to stop selling baby bottles containing the chemical by early 2009.
Bisphenol leaches out of food containers, and about 93 percent of Americans have traces of it in their urine, according to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 6 million pounds (this should be billion!!) of bisphenol are produced in the U.S. each year by Dow Chemical, Bayer AG and other manufacturers.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade group representing chemical makers, told lawmakers that bisphenol and phthalates are "among the most well defined chemicals on earth" and do not warrant safety restrictions.
Lawmakers pointed out, however, that the European Union and California have restricted six types of phthalates from use in toys, over concerns they can cause reproductive problems in children.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Democratic Rep. Darlene Hooley are hoping to include similar U.S. restrictions in legislation aimed at tightening oversight of toy safety. Last year millions of toys, most of them imported from China, were recalled because of lead or other hazards. House and Senate versions of the bill are awaiting a conference meeting to resolve differences.
But Republicans suggested Tuesday that Democrats are moving too fast.
"I hope we're not using this hearing to put something hastily into that conference report without letting the House do it's due diligence to understand the science," said Republican Rep. Michael Burgess.
A scientist from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees the safety of toys, said the agency sees no need for a ban. Based on the commission's research, a child would have to chew on a plastic toy for 75 minutes a day to absorb minimally dangerous levels of phthalates. Government scientists found most children only chew on toys for about one to two minutes each day.
Many of the largest toy companies, including Mattel Inc. and Hasbro Inc., agreed in 1998 to exclude certain phthalates from their toys.
April 20, 2008, Houston Chronicle
It shouldn't be dangerous for babies to drink milk from a baby bottle. Let's make sure it's not.
The last thing caring parents expect to learn is that they might be unwittingly poisoning their children. A finding that toxins from plastic baby bottles can leach into milk will strike guilt and fear in their hearts.
According to draft conclusions reached by the National Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institutes of Health, there is reason to have "some concern" that a component of plastics used to make rigid, transparent drink containers, including baby bottles and some hard-bodied water bottles, could cause harm to developing fetuses and the brains and reproductive organs of children. The chemical is also used in the manufacture of linings for cans for food and infant formula.
Studies found that bisphenol-a, also known as BPA, has negative impact on animals at low doses. In animal fetuses and newborns, BPA can interfere with normal hormone production and change genes. These changes can cause a frightening list of maladies, including early onset of female puberty, attention disorders, breast and prostate cancers and other reproductive and neurological problems. Furthermore, BPA is so broadly used in products that traces of it can be found in almost every human and at levels often higher than concentrations that cause problems in research animals.
These are worrisome findings gleaned from a review of close to 500 animal studies that cry out for more experimentation to pinpoint precisely what risks children might be exposed to in the very milk they drink. Further research will also clear up disagreements about exactly how much of the chemical actually seeps out of plastic containers and liners into foods and beverages. And it would determine the long-term consequences of BPA exposure.
Canada last week became the first country to take steps leading to a declaration that bisphenol-a is a toxic chemical. The designation could lead to a partial or complete ban on food-related plastics made with BPA. While the science is being sorted out in the United States, there are steps federal and state environmental agencies should take to give citizens a higher measure of confidence about the foods they eat and feed to their children.
As a start, there should be stricter testing and regulation of products marketed for use by children to ensure that they do not, at a minimum, contain toxic chemicals. When there is a question, manufacturers should be made to show within a reasonable period that their products are indeed safe for children. Government should take steps to quickly phase out the use of chemical ingredients that are proved to damage children's health, and the public should be notified through product labeling when studies raise concerns about an ingredient.
For now, environmental groups and health professionals recommend that worried parents should switch to glass bottles or those made with nonpolycarbonate plastic.
The Canadian, April 16, 2008
Ridding life of products made with chemical BPA could prove a challenge
TORONTO - When most Canadians open their kitchen cupboards, they're sure to find at least one product packaged in a container made with bisphenol A.
The controversial chemical, expected to soon be designated a toxic agent by the federal government, is a mainstay of products consumers use every day - from water and baby bottles to liners in food and beverage cans to sealants used in dental fillings.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, allows manufacturers to make a rigid and translucent product known as polycarbonate plastic, often - but not always - identified by a triangle surrounding the number 7. In canned food and beverages, especially acidic vegetables and fruits, BPA-resin liners stop the contents from eroding the metal container.
But it's also a molecule that mimics estrogen and can leach from receptacles: injection of the agent into lab rodents has been shown to cause hormonal dysfunction and tumours, and scientists believe long-term exposure in humans could lead in some cases to infertility, early puberty, and even breast and prostate cancers.
So if BPA is virtually everywhere, what can consumers do to protect their health?
"My advice would be to take action, that there's enough evidence to take action," said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, an advocacy group that has long lobbied to have BPA deemed a toxic agent.
"This is the kind of chemical that may cause problems in the longer term," Smith said Wednesday. "This is not the kind of chemical that's going to cause problems all at once in a day or two."
"So people don't need to rush out today, but certainly as soon as they can they should substitute non-toxic alternatives for their bisphenol A products, especially if they're using things for their kids."
Infants and children are especially vulnerable to pollutants and toxins because their brains and bodies are still developing, with their cells dividing more quickly than those of adults, he said.
While many manufacturers have stopped making BPA-containing plastic baby bottles and turned to safer alternatives, parents may still be using older products that can leach BPA with heating and washing, as well as from acidic liquids like juice.
"They should absolutely ditch their bisphenol A baby bottles and sippy cups," said Smith, who advises switching to glass, or at the least, non-toxic plastic. "There are very good, reasonably priced alternatives in the market right now."
The same is true for sports water bottles made with plastic containing bisphenol A. In fact, many major Canadian retailers have pulled such bottles from their shelves, replacing them with non-toxic plastic or stainless steel products. Some, such as the Hudson's Bay company, are offering buy-back programs of bottles containing the chemical.
On Wednesday, Wal-Mart Canada joined the growing list of retailers dumping at least some BPA products when it announced it will immediately stop selling select baby bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, food containers and water bottles made with the agent. Home Depot Canada also said it would pull products made with BPA from its stores.
But Smith conceded it will be more difficult for Canadians to entirely eliminate BPA exposure because so many food and beverage containers are made with the chemical.
"Most brands of tin cans are lined with a bisphenol A resin," said Smith. Large water-cooler jugs are also often made from that type of plastic, as are soft drink and fruit juice bottles.
"When it comes to canned goods, it's much more difficult and this is where we need regulatory action, because unless you're fortunate enough to live right beside a farmer's market, you're probably not going to be able to completely eliminate canned goods from your diet."
"And this also loops back to kids," he said, noting that most baby formulas are in cans lined with BPA resins. "So if a kid is drinking formula from a bisphenol-A baby bottle, they're actually getting a double whammy because the actual packaging that the formula comes in contains bisphenol A and then you're adding it to a baby bottle."
Smith advises parents to switch to powdered formula sold in cardboard containers. Even though those paper-based packages have metal tops and bottoms lined with BPA resin, contact with the dry contents would be much reduced, he said.
"So when it comes to infant formula, families can minimize their exposure through using powdered formula. But in general unless you completely eliminate canned food from your diet, there's no good answer."
What to do about bisphenol A-based plastics is proving a conundrum for container makers as well, said Lawrence Dworkin, director of government relations for the Packaging Association of Canada.
While research into alternatives has been going on within the industry, Dworkin said no substitute has been found to do the job of maintaining the integrity of metal cans and protecting contents from spoilage.
He estimated that packaging manufacturers in Canada employ between 4,000 and 5,000 people.
"If it was outright banned tomorrow," he said of bisphenol A, "we should have some major disruptions certainly in the production side of those companies and ... (it) would probably shut down the industry."
Still, Dworkin said the industry would live with whatever the government decides, whether that means getting rid of BPA completely or meeting allowable levels.
"If it's proven this stuff is a health hazard, then it's got to go. The health of consumers comes first."
Worldwide production capacity for BPA is 3.7 billion kilograms per year, according to chemical industry analysts. Just over a billion kilograms are produced in the United States - with half of that in Texas plants owned by Dow, Bayer and Hexion Specialty Chemicals.
Mark Walton, a spokesman for Dow Chemical, said BPA is one of several agents being assessed under Canadian environmental law, a step that would enable authorities to "consider any other forms of regulatory actions that may be appropriate based on the science."
Walton said it's unlikely Dow would change what it does about bisphenol A "in the near future." The company and a number of regulatory groups have reviewed BPA and "these reviews continue to find that there is no concern for health, although some do say we'd like to have some areas of the science clarified by more research."
Smith of Environmental Defence predicted that given the parade of retailers choosing to pull products made with BPA, manufacturers that don't switch to alternatives will lose market share to those that do.
But even if Ottawa does deem BPA a toxic material, "this is not the end of the road by any means," said Smith.
"The regulatory process in Canada is a very long and tortuous process. We don't know exactly where the government is headed, but certainly there's a lot of momentum unfolding and we think it's headed in the right direction."
"The Globe and Mail", April 15, 2008.
Canada first to label bisphenol A as officially dangerous
Would pave way for a federal ban
Health Canada is calling bisphenol A a dangerous substance, making it the first regulatory body in the world to reach such a determination and taking the initial step toward measures to control exposures to it.
Although the government won't announce specific bans or restrictions, the designation as dangerous could pave the way for the hormonally active chemical to be listed as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, which would allow Health Minister Tony Clement to issue specific measures to curb its use.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is one of the most widely used synthetic chemicals in modern industry. It is the basic building block for polycarbonate, the see-through, shatter-proof plastic that resembles glass, and is also used to make the epoxy resins lining the insides of most tin cans, along with some dental sealants, sports helmets, and compact discs.
Experts are worried about BPA in food and beverage containers. Products such as CDs aren't considered a problem.
"Bisphenol A is in every Canadian home. It threatens the health of every Canadian. Moving against it would be a hugely significant victory for public health and the environment," said Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, a group that has been campaigning for a ban on the chemical from food containers.
The conclusion by Health Canada that BPA is a possible threat, expected to be announced as early as tomorrow, will amount to one of the most important regulatory decisions regarding a single chemical in decades, and will put pressure on its counterparts at both the European Union and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to reconsider their approval.
"If this chemical is listed as toxic (by Health Canada), it will be an internationally significant decision," Mr. Smith said.
Under Health Canada's regulatory approach, the government department, along with Environment Canada, is expected later this week to release a draft assessment indicating that bisphenol A endangers people and the environment. The document outlining this finding will be open for a 60-day public comment period. If no new information is made available through the consultation to overturn the finding, the government will issue a final report outlining control measures within a year.
The government had a deadline of mid-May to issue its BPA assessment but is moving earlier because of intense public interest.
The expected announcement will also win the Harper government praise among environmentalists, who have been harsh critics of the Conservatives' approach to climate change but will find it hard to criticize groundbreaking action on a chemical pollutant.
U.S. tests have found that more than 90 per cent of the population carries in their bodies trace residues of the chemical, whose molecular shape allows it to mimic the female hormone estrogen. Small amounts of BPA can leach from food and beverage containers during use, such as when they are heated, exposed to harsh dishwashing chemicals, or contain acidic substances. Health Canada is testing Canadians' BPA levels, but the results will not be available for several years.
In response to concerns over the safety of BPA, many specialty retailers, including Mountain Equipment Co-op, have pulled polycarbonate plastic containers from their stores, and BPA-free bottles are been flying off shelves, creating shortages. Hudson's Bay Co. announced last month that it had "secured large quantities" BPA-free baby products, a sign of how quickly even the mass market has moved against the chemical.
Independent researchers in dozens of studies have linked trace BPA exposures in animal and test-tube experiments to conditions involving hormone imbalances, including breast and prostate cancer, early puberty and changes in brain structure, particularly for exposures during key points of fetal or early neonatal development.
However, industry-funded testing has been unable to confirm these findings. The trade association representing major manufacturers, the American Chemistry Council. based in Arlington, Va., submitted two studies to Health Canada during its assessment indicating BPA has no harmful effects at low doses.
Until now, regulators in other countries have accepted the industry's assertion that BPA is harmless at the tiny, parts-per-billion type exposures from canned food and plastic beverage containers. A part per billion is roughly equal to one blade of grass on a football field, although natural hormones such as estrogen are active at far lower concentrations, around a part per trillion.
Polycarbonate is sometimes identified by the recycling industry's symbol of the number seven inside a triangle, with the letters PC nearby.
MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT , ENVIRONMENT REPORTER
Canada takes stance on BPA
A U.S. study found that more than 90 per cent of people carry trace amounts of the chemical in their bodies. The Canadian government is expected to announce as early as tomorrow that it is a dangerous substance.
WHAT IS IT?
Used to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Common items:
· Baby bottles
· Watercooler bottles
· Liners for food and beverage cans
· Seals for cavity-prone teeth
Polycarbonate plastic tends to leach bisphenol A with age and after heating.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a compound that mimics estrogen, which can disrupt the endocrine system and could induce adverse hormonal responses. Studied effects on animals give rise to fear that low-level exposure might cause similar effects in human beings.
· Permanent changes to genital tract
· Increase prostate weight
· Decline in testosterone
· Breast cells predisposed to cancer
· Prostate cells more sensitive to hormones and cancer