If BPA Is So Terrible, Why Is Everybody Still Drinking Beer and Pop Out of BPA Lined Cans?

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Birds-eye view of the tops of a dozen silver beer cans

Lloyd Alter / CC BY 2.0

There is a fundamental logical inconsistency here. Either the stuff is bad for you or it isn't.

TreeHugger Katherine reports that BPA replacements aren't safe either, study finds. She is discussing new research that shows that "the chemicals used to replace BPA over the past 20 years have the same damaging effects." Katherine reminds us:

BPA does indeed have a serious effect on the developing brain, heart, lung, prostate, mammary gland, sperm and eggs. This spurred a widespread rejection of BPA in many consumer products, which is why it's now common to see 'BPA-free' labels on certain plastics.

Most websites discussing the research use the same kind of construction and language, basically acknowledging that BPA is bad. Quartz:

(while showing disposable water bottles which are made from PET which has never included BPA). Science:

. Even the authors of the research write in Science Alert:

Which is particularly maddening, since we haven't replaced BPA except in polycarbonates.

All of this makes me want to bang my head against the wall and scream in bold upper case: BUT YOU ALL ARE DRINKING OUT OF BPA LEACHING EPOXY LINED BEER AND POP CANS! The epoxy resin lining the cans so that they don't taste like aluminum is 80 percent BPA. One hundred billion cans made in the USA every year, almost all of them lined with BPA.

The fundamental contradiction

Here's the thing. If BPA is harmless and is not a xenoestrogen (a chemical that mimics estrogen), then you can delete Katherine's story and every other one on the internet about this new research; there is no story here. Except you can't because they found effects from the BPA substitutes that they say are just as bad as the BPA they replaced, scrambling the chromosomes of baby mice. So there is a story and everyone is covering it.

If you go to any website of any brewer that addresses the issue, they all say BPA is harmless. Sierra Nevada claims that "some studies show that you’d have to eat and drink the contents of roughly 450 cans per day, every day, to ingest enough BPA from a can liner to reach unsafe levels." But they conclude "in our opinion, the benefits of cans—portability, lower carbon footprint, recyclability, and absolute protection from light and oxygen—outweigh the risk." They got that from the Bisphenol A.org site which also notes that the FDA considers BPA to be harmless.

Human exposure to BPA from can coatings is minimal and poses no known risk to human health. Can coatings have been and continue to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.K. Food Standards Agency, the EC Scientific Committee on Food and other government bodies worldwide.

We know that BPA leaches from the inside of beer and pop cans; the beer companies even acknowledge it and worry about it. From industry mag Beer Advocate:

Chart showing BPA in beer products
Government of Canada/Public Domain
“Human exposure to bisphenol A is widespread and it does quantifiably leach into beer,” says Jaime Jurado, director of brewing operations at Abita Brewing, pointing to a Canadian study that measured BPA in eight of eight beer cans it sampled. In contrast, the study only found BPA in one of the eight beer bottles it studied. Still, Jurado says, just because you detect BPA doesn’t mean you’ve proven that it’s harmful. That area still needs more research. “Little information on the effects of BPA on development in humans is available,” explains Jurado.

This is not the first time I have written about BPA in cans (see related links below), which continue to rule the market because they are convenient, cheaper to ship, and all the cool kids like drinking from them; I can't even get my own kids to listen to me. But it makes no sense reading and believing every website saying "BPA substitutes are as bad as BPA" while we swill down a can of pop or beer lined with BPA epoxy. Either you believe it or you don't.