BPA Levels Much Higher Than FDA Estimates, Study Says

by | Sep 23, 2010

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A new study suggests exposure to bisphenol-A  (BPA) is actually far greater than previously thought, and its authors urge the federal government to act quickly to regulate BPA which is found in baby bottles, food-storage containers, can linings and many household products, Food Safety News reports.

The peer-reviewed study, published Sept. 20 in the online National Institute of Health journal Environmental Health Perspectives, also says BPA exposure is likely coming from many sources–including some still unknown.

Researchers at the University of Missouri Division of Biological Sciences, Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab and the department of Biomedical Sciences, working with scientists at the University of California-Davis and Washington State University, co-authored the study, Consumer Affairs reports.

“Our data raise grave concern that regulatory agencies have grossly underestimated current human exposure levels,” the study states. “On this basis of our findings, we propose that the higher than predicted serum levels of unconjugated BPA in men and women reflect significant non-oral BPA exposure in addition to oral exposure.”

“This is consistent with other evidence suggesting that the consumption of BPA contaminated food and beverages alone is insufficient to account for the BPA levels reported in human biomonitoring studies,” the study added.

Once source, that was previously not considered is thermal paper used in register receipts, which were found to contain high levels of BPA in July.  Earlier this month it was reported that dental patients are exposed to BPA in dental sealants.

Connecticut, Massachusetts, Washington, New York and Oregon now have limits on BPA, particularly in products used by children, but the California legislature recently rejected a BPA ban.  Similar legislation has been proposed in Congress, where it is a partisan issue.  

Two years ago Canada announced it would be the first country to ban plastic bottles made with BPA and recently took the first step toward making good on that promise – placing BPA on a toxic-substance list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a move that should be final by November.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which last year rated the potential effects of low doses of BPA as “of some concern,” has said daily exposure of up to 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight is safe.  But the study suggests people are exposed to at least eight times that amount.

With nearly 8 billion pounds manufactured each year,  BPA is one of the highest-volume chemicals ever produced.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the compound is present in approximately 93 percent of the U.S. population.  Recently, Statistics Canada reported that BPA was present in 91 percent of Canadians.

Consumer concern about BPA has been mounting and has done far more to limit the use of BPA than regulations.  Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Sears are among the retailers who have promised to stop selling items like baby bottles and sippy cups made with BPA and customer complaints have prompted some manufacturers to switch to BPA-free materials.

Chemical and can manufacturers have argued that a ban on BPA would have a devastating effect on food safety in the U.S.,  Prop 65 News reports.  At a regulatory hearing in May concerning the potential listing of BPA as a reproductive toxin under California’s Proposition 65, Patrick Leathers, testifying on behalf of the Can Manufacturers Institute, said if  warning labels were required on canned foods, such a step would “greatly disrupt the manufacture of metal cans and reduce the availability of food and beverage products in California and hinder consumer ability to find nutritious, valuable and shelf stable foods and beverages, which represent approximately 17 percent of the American diet.”

Leathers added that a “warning level would convey a threat to public health that is unsupported by the evidence, and is not supported by agencies such as FDA and other international public health bodies. The maligning of BPA would encourage a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.”

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