World Health Organization Calls BPA Legislation and Control "Premature"
TreeHugger was one of the earliest sites to raise concern about endocrine disrupting chemicals like Bisphenol A; we were loud in our support for the removal of polycarbonate bottles (an easy target as there are lots of alternatives) and for the elimination of BPA epoxies from tin cans. Treehugger was the first to note that BPA is used in the lids of home canning products, and recently covered the issue of BPA in receipts. After a lot of discussions with chemists and toxicologists, we continue to believe that Bisphenol A, along with phthalates and other endocrine disruptors like Triclosan should be controlled and their use minimized.
But now the World Health Organization is says slow down, don't panic.
High Levels Of BPA Found In Cash Register Receipts, What You Can Do To Protect Yourself
Data from this report indicate that this highly toxic chemical does not, in fact, stay on the paper, but rather easily transfers to our skin and likely to other items that it rubs against. "Our findings demonstrate that BPA cannot be avoided, even by the most conscious consumer".
That should be no surprise to anyone, millions of pounds of the stuff are produced every year, it is everywhere. The report uses strong language, calling BPA "highly toxic" and describing an "explosion of research" linking it to cancer, diabetes and obesity, reproductive problems, reduced sperm counts, ADHD and autism. Scary stuff.
Yet in the same month, a joint report from the UN's World Health Organization and FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization looked at this research and came to different conclusions.
It declared BPA to be of "low toxicity", said there was insufficient information to call it carcinogenic, and claims more studies are needed to determine the estrogenic effects, noting:
Although a large number of studies on the toxicity and hormonal activity of BPA in laboratory animals have been published, there have been considerable discrepancies in outcome among these studies with respect to both the nature of the effects observed as well as the levels at which they occur. This has led to controversy within the scientific community about the safety of BPA, as well as considerable media attention.
WHO even declared Canada's modest measures to control BPA "premature," even though all Canada has done so far is ban it from baby bottles, and claimed that "BPA is not accumulated in the body and is rapidly eliminated through urine."
That isn't relevant if one is talking about hormones, it doesn't take much at all to have an effect. Rick Smith of Environmental Defence counters:
The stuff is pretty much everywhere; it is a key component in polycarbonates and epoxies, and even thermal papers used for receipts.... We already knew that BPA passes through the body, But the fact that studies still show it present in nine out of 10 people means that it is getting in just as fast, and doing damage while it is there. We therefore must remove BPA from ubiquitous items such as tin can linings so that we are not marinating in the stuff.
As we have noted, The FDA is spending $ 30 million on research and the industry is scrambling to find replacements for BPA in cans. At some point no doubt people will agree that feeding estrogen-like hormones to babies and kids is not a great idea. But they won't get a lot of support from the WHO and FAO.
More on Bisphenol A:
Gender Bender Chemicals Also Make You Fat : TreeHugger
Bisphenol A Could Be In Your Teeth : TreeHugger
1 Million Lbs of BPA Released Into US Environment Each Year - EPA
Our recommendations to avoid BPA in food:
Don't use canned baby formula: All U.S. manufacturers use BPA-based lining on the metal portions of the formula containers. If you must use formula, choose powered or liquid in plastic bottles.
Don't eat canned food if you are pregnant. the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) says "We don't want to tell people not to eat canned beans or tomatoes," said CSPI nutritionist David Schardt. "But at the same time, it makes sense for all parents, and especially pregnant and nursing women, to minimize the exposure of their kids' developing bodies and brains to BPA."
Buy in bottles, not cans. Many products, like tomato sauces, are available in bottles as well as cans. Does that white epoxy on the inside of the metal lid have BPA? Probably, but there is a lot less surface area than the whole inside of a can.
Start cooking instead of just heating. The fact that 17% of the American diet comes out of cans is just a scandal when we are surrounded by fresh food. Cook it from scratch and avoid the problem altogether.
Demand BPA-free cans. Not every manufacturer uses it; Some brands, like Eden Foods are BPA free. See a list of common brands and company responses at Organic Grace.