Plastic Chemical BPA Is Officially Toxic in Canada

By Jennifer Welsh | October 14, 2010 3:36 pm

NALGENEThe Canadian government today declared bisphenol A, a chemical in plastics also known as BPA, to be toxic.

A scientific assessment of the impact of human and environmental exposure to bisphenol A has determined that this substance constitutes or may constitute a danger to human health and the environment [Official notice]

The chemical has been linked to heart disease, impotence, and diabetes, while animal and cell culture experiments have shown that it can mimic the female hormone estrogen. It is found in some plastic containers, and some food cans are lined with it.

While Canada is forging ahead, most other governments are dithering about whether or not the chemical poses a health threat.

How much exposure is too much, though? There is no clear answer. Two weeks ago, the European Food Safety Authority declared that BPA did not pose sufficient risk to stop using it in food containers. While tiny amounts can leach out into food, they cannot raise human exposure to unacceptably risky levels, the authority concluded after an assessment of existing scientific studies. [Nature]

The move will enable Canada to regulate the use and sale of products containing the chemical through regulations, instead of legislation, which will speed up the process of removing it from products or limiting its use. The government’s first goal is to set limits on the amount of BPA that can be released from factories that use the compound; George Enei of the government agency Environment Canada says there aren’t yet definite plans to ban it from food packaging.

“This is a step in a journey,” Mr. Enei said. “Once you’re on the list, it signals Canada will do something.” [The New York Times]

Canada was the first country to move to regulate BPA in 2008 by making it illegal in baby bottles, and is has forged ahead by listing it as a toxic chemical. In the United States, about half a dozen states have banned BPA in children’s products, but the federal government has declared that it isn’t a health hazard. Across the Atlantic, reactions have also been mixed. Despite the European Food Safety Authority’s declaration that BPA is safe, France has banned the chemical in baby bottles, and Denmark has issued a temporary ban of BPA.

Obviously BPA supporters aren’t happy with Canada’s decision.

“Environment Canada’s announcement is contrary to the weight of worldwide scientific evidence, unwarranted and will unnecessarily confuse and alarm the public,” Steven G. Hentges, who leads the polycarbonate and BPA group at the council, said in a statement. [The New York Times]

Related content:
80beats: Controversial Plastics Chemical Causes Problems in Monkey Brains
80beats: BPA-Heart Disease Link Confirmed, But Levels in People Have Declined
80beats: BPA Won’t Leave Public-Health Conversation—or Your Body
80beats: Study: The Chemical BPA, in High Doses, Causes Impotence
DISCOVER: The Dirty Truth About Plastic

Image: Flickr/soopahgrover

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Health & Medicine
  • nick

    I think this says it all right here, “unacceptably risky levels.” Acknowledging the levels are risky, but not unacceptably risky, i.e. there’s more money to be lost by banning the substance than allowing humans to be harmed by it.

    S’okay tho, public attitudes will eventually get it buried as more horror tales come out. 😀

  • hilde

    Actually, Canada isn’t the only country which has decided BPA is toxic. It has also been banned in Denmark and France.

  • Eliza Strickland

    Thanks very much for the info, hilde.

    Apparently Denmark issued a temporary ban in March, and reportedly has no intention of lifting it anytime soon. I’d thought that France’s ban hadn’t gone through the legislature yet, but apparently it did ban the use of BPA in baby bottles in June.

    I’ll correct the headline.

    — Eliza, DISCOVER online news editor

  • G Hats

    I live in Canada and I approve this message! Damn, I’m happy to hear about this. No matter what people will argue, BPA is definitely not healthy. Maybe the risk isn’t huge, but I’m happy knowing that I won’t be exposed to as much risk as those in other countries now.

  • Daniel J. Andrews

    A bit tongue-in-cheek here, but it is surprising how many substances that are linked to diseases, cancers of various types are not banned–but imply it may cause impotence and it has gotta go. :)

  • Marine Boisseau

    Information about solar panel installs NJ.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.

See More

Collapse bottom bar