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The Use and Hazards of Bispheol-A

Updated on May 1, 2012


What is BPA and where is it found?

Bisphenol-A (BPA), is an organic compound commonly used in the manufacture of plastics and epoxy resins, and is widely used in food packaging. This extensive use causes human exposure that may result in adverse health effects. The possible human health effects have been the subject of research, resulting in its classification as a possible health hazard in some countries, with limitations or outright bans on its use. The conclusion drawn from the analysis of the websites bisphenol-a.org, theedailygreen.com, oehha.ca.gov, fda.gov, aiha.org, and epa.gov is that human health may be impacted by exposure to BPA, but owing to the extensive use of the material and attendant cost of developing alternative compounds, further investigation is needed to determine the necessity for restricting or banning its use. The human consumption of food-related products containing BPA should be avoided where feasible, especially by sensitive groups, such as children and pregnant women.

BPA is used as a raw material in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics, including food packaging, baby bottles, and thermal receipt paper backing, and thus is nearly ubiquitous in the environment. US EPA estimates that more than one million pounds of BPA per year is released the environment1. The compound is resistant to extreme temperature, acidity, and BPA may contribute to increased food safety due to its ability to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. The US EPA has issued an Action Plan for BPA which includes an effort to develop alternatives to the compound in non-food manufacturing applications2. Alternatives to BPA in food related products include stainless steel, aluminum, other synthetic materials and glass. Consumer sentiment has resulted in removal of BPA from items commonly used by infants and children under five years of age, such as formula bottles and sippy cups. Canada, China, and the European Union have banned its use, and some US states and cities have attempted to ban the use in containers used by children6.

How we are exposed

The primary exposure route for BPA in humans is ingestion of BPA leached from polycarbonate containers and liners. Controversy regarding quantification of human exposure quantities is evident. Studies found on the websites bisphenol-a.org, and fda.gov showed the estimated exposure ranged from less than 0.12 µg/kg body weight per day3, to less than 4.12 µg/kg body weight per day4. Acceptable level of exposure to BPA by the US EPA has been determined to be 50000 µg/kg body weight per day5, which is significantly higher than exposure levels found in the studies reviewed.

Owing to its use in everyday products, BPA has been found in 95% of test subjects6. BPA has been shown to have toxic effects in animal studies and may mimic the effects of estrogen in the human body6. However, questions remain n concerning the actual impact on humans and the environment. Toxicity studies have shown that BPA levels commonly found in humans to be below accepted safe levels. Conversely, different studies show that low-doses may adversely affect human health5.

Should we ban BPA?

Based on a review of available data, the conclusion may be made that the use of BPA may have the potential for adverse health effects in humans and should be avoided in products used by children and pregnant women. The studies reviewed show that there may be a correlation between BPA exposure from food stored in BPA-containing packaging and adverse health effects, however, questions remain regarding the dose-response relationship, and a causal relationship should not be inferred due to lurking variables, such as genetic predisposition, characteristics of the food stored, and lifestyle differences. Moreover, the complete ban on use would add significant cost to production of products in everyday use. Additional study is needed before a complete ban on the use of BPA.

References:

1. EPA Seeks Comments on BPA Testing at

http://aiha.org/news-pubs/synergist/newswatch/Pages/EPASeeksCommentsonBPATesting.aspx

Institution: American Industrial Hygiene Association

2. BPA Alternatives in Thermal Paper Partnership at

epa.gov/dfe/pubs/projects/bpa/index.htm

Institution: US Environmental Protection Agency

3. Human Health and Safety at

http://www.bisphenol-a.org/human/consafety.html

Institution: American Chemistry Council

4. US Department of Health and Human Services Memorandum Dated June 2, 2008 at

http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/ac/08/briefing/2008-0038b1_01_07_FDA%20Reference%20Material-FDA%20Memo%20Cumulative.pdf

Institution: US FDA

5. Bisphenol A Action Plan Summary at

http://www.epa.gov/oppt/existingchemicals/pubs/actionplans/bpa.html

Institution: US EPA

6. Avoid Bisphenol A in Bottles and Cans at

http://www.thedailygreen.com/living-green/blogs/organic-parenting/4600

Institution: Goodhousekeeping.com

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    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      While I agree that BPA is a serious health hazard, I believe that it has been banned for use in baby bottles in Canada and that chemical manufacturers no longer sell the chemical to manufacturers of baby bottles world wide. It would be wise to know if it's used in the plastic you drink out of, though!

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