Smart discussion about toxics policy reform

BPA: Why are we still eating this stuff?

The federal Food and Drug Administration hasn’t forced the plastic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) out of food packaging – yet.   But as things now stand, it’s just a matter of time.

On Friday, in a dramatic about-face, FDA officials announced they would “support” – meaning jawbone — the food industry to shift to materials free of BPA, a synthetic estrogen that leaches readily into whatever food or drink it touches and is linked to a range of serious health problems.  Though the agency avoided labeling BPA a danger to public health — a declaration that would require immediate government action – its explanation was studded with more red flags, traffic cones, flares and police tape than a pile-up on the four-lane.

Baby bottles, Nalgene, Camelbak now BPA-free

When most people see a wreck in the distance, they start looking for an off-ramp.  Companies know this, and the market moves.  Major baby bottle producers and sports bottle manufacturers such as Nalgene and Camelbak have already stopped using polycarbonate plastic, whose integral ingredient is BPA.

Canning industry resisting change

The canning industry has been unwilling to abandon BPA-based epoxy resin for its metal can linings, pleading expense and lack of feasible alternatives.  But on Friday, Dr. John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Association,  sounded a conciliatory note, saying the canners “stand ready to help FDA in any process changes they feel are needed to better ensure the safety of packaged foods.”

If FDA presses ahead, the industry will have a tough time explaining why it is continuing to resist reformulating its can linings.

BPA in adults linked to heart disease, diabetes

Meanwhile, more studies about BPA’s impact on human health are lending a new urgency to the BPA issue.  Last week, British scientists reported that they had dug into population studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and come up with a disturbing discovery:  people with high concentrations of BPA in their urine were more than twice as likely to report they had been diagnosed with heart disease or diabetes as people with the least BPA. Such evidence is necessarily circumstantial, since it would be immoral and illegal to  expose people deliberately to a suspected toxic substance.  Study co-author David Melzer of the University of Exeter cautioned that since only 159 of the 2,605 Americans tested by CDC reported cardiovascular disease, “larger studies are needed to make accurate estimates.”

Even so, Melzer said, “we expect these figures underestimate” the real impact of BPA on heart disease and other health problems, since the CDC urine tests amount to a snapshot of an individual’s BPA level at  a single  moment and don’t measure that person’s true BPA exposure over a lifetime.

Research on BPA accelerating

More research on BPA and human health is in the pipeline.  Linda Birmbaum, director of the National Institute of  Environmental Health Sciences  (NIEHS), has  devoted $14 milllion from the Obama administration’s emergency stimulus package to an investigation of BPA and human health.   Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson has ordered a fast-track risk assessment of BPA and five other high-profile chemicals, with an eye to stepped-up regulation.

All of which means that BPA is going to stay in the headlines, and not in a good way.  Looking down the road, we don’t know when, exactly, the FDA is going to take action on  this worrisome endocrine system-disrupting chemical.  But one way or another, we think its days in bottles and cans are numbered.

Remember Howard Beale (Peter Finch) in Network?

People are mad as hell about contamination in their food, and they’re not going to take it much longer.

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5 Responses to “BPA: Why are we still eating this stuff?”

  1. Lillian Wallis says:

    I would like to use this valuable info. provided to help educate friends and family about the dangers of Toxins. I presently teach a class on Whole Food Nutrition where I bring out these type of facts and warnings! I did not see a “print” tab. Can this be copied as is and used?

    I am thankful that this info. is now reaching millions by television information shows like Doctor OZ!

    Thank you,
    Lillian Wallis
    [email protected]

  2. Kathleen Eddy says:

    As we research and talk about toxins in our food, water and environment let’s examine toxins but in our bodies by vaccines. Every ingredient has a patent and is profitable for some(one)! Injecting Toxins to “ensure” health is obviously 180 degrees backwards from the truth. Kathleen

  3. Chaz Coats says:

    I read an article titled “Chemical Linked to Birth Defects Found at Unsafe Leels in Canned Food” on the EWG web site that stated “The last comprehensive review of low dose studies found that the ovewhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies – 94 of 115- have confirmed BPA’s toxicity at low levels of exposure.”
    I am very interested to see the documentation for that statement. Would please provide documentation on that statement or let me know where I can find documentation on that statement.
    Kindest personal regards,
    Chaz Coats

    • Elaine Shannon says:

      Dear Chaz,

      Those figures came from an article by Dr. Frederick Vom Saal, a University of Missouri research biologist and recognize expert on low-dose BPA effects, writing in August 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Here is the link.

      Since that time, the number of studies has grown, as has the number that have associated health risks to low doses of BPA. We’ll try to find a more current number.

      Best, Elaine Shannon

      • Elaine Shannon says:

        And here’s some updated information. According to a paper by Dr. Vom Saal in 2009,
        14 studies funded by industry plus 15 independent studies found that low doses of BPA had no effect on health. Researchers conducting 202 studies found that low doses of BPA caused “significant effects” Here’s the link:

        Vom Saal FS. 2009. Assessment of the outcomes of low-dose Bisphenol A studies. Prepared March 2009. Available at: