February 10, 2017

What is BPA?

BPA (Bisphenol A) is an industrial chemical found in epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining on the inside of most metal-based food and beverage cans, jar lids, and bottle tops. BPA is also used to make polycarbonate, which can be used to make water bottles. BPA can leach into food from the epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and from polycarbonate containers.

Product manufacturers have abandoned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging, and subsequently the FDA amended its food additive regulations to no longer provide for the use of BPA-based materials in those products.

The baby products industry was one of the first to end the use of BPA out of concern of its link to endocrine disruptors. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.

How can I tell if a container has BPA?

Packaging that contains BPA is not required by law to be labeled. There is no federal law requiring packaging labels disclose whether they contain BPA or not .

Polycarbonate containers are labeled with the resin identification code (RIC) of 7.  However, there are numerous types of plastic resins that use the #7 code, therefore RICs alone won’t tell you if the container is made of polycarbonate. The vast majority of #7 packaging don’t contain BPA.

California is the first state to pass a law requiring businesses to provide warnings about products with BPA.

What are the concerns about exposure to BPA?

The National Toxicology Program of the US Department of Health and Human Services found “clear evidence” that high doses of BPA caused developmental effects in laboratory animals.  The agency says that it had “some concern” for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current levels of exposure to BPA.

A 2003-2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of Americans six years and older. BPA leached into food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure. Additional traces of BPA can leach into food when storage containers reach high temperatures.

What is the governmental stance on BPAs?

Based on FDA’s ongoing safety review of scientific evidence, the available information continues to support the safety of BPA for the currently approved uses in food containers and packaging. According to the FDA, “People are exposed to low levels of BPA because, like many packaging components, very small amounts of BPA may migrate from the food packaging into foods or beverages. Studies pursued by FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) have shown no effects of BPA from low-dose exposure.”

BPA alternatives

Research into the BPA alternatives is still in the early stages. In 2015, University of Calgary scientists released study findings suggesting that bisphenol-S, used in many products bearing “BPA-free” labels, causes abnormal growth surges of neurons in an animal embryo. At this point it’s unclear whether alternatives will be found that are preferable for use in food packaging and similar products.