Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastic is used in thousands of consumer products such as reusable food containers, babies' feeding bottles & plastic drink bottles to prevent cracking and shattering.
Currently there is still much debate between scientists and manufacturers as to the true extent of the risk. Canada has already banned all polycarbonate baby bottles however New Zealand does not have any ban on BPA in place.
Basically evidence to date is inconclusive. Recent studies have shown that Bisphenol A can leach out and potentially have developmental effects on infants and newborns. BPA belongs to a group of substances which can act in a similar way to some hormones and as such are sometimes called ‘endocrine disruptors’ because it does show a weak hormonal effect.
Some studies in laboratory animals suggest that low levels of (consumed) BPA may have an effect on the reproductive system. Similar consequences in consumers at these low concentrations are considered unlikely because BPA is rapidly inactivated and then excreted in the urine. To date, the available scientific data (which includes lifetime feeding studies in animals) indicates that bisphenol A does not cause cancer.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently completed a review of the scientific literature for BPA and determined a maximum daily ‘safe limit’ for BPA. They concluded that the estimated total daily intake of BPA by a bottle-fed baby would be less than 10% of the ‘safe level’ for babies, when the bottles were cleaned using normal domestic conditions, and about 20% of the ‘safe limit’, when the bottles were cleaned under exaggerated conditions including the use of boiling water or strong solvents.
In adults, the estimated daily intake from canned foods and beverages would be about 5% of the ‘safe limit’. NZFSA and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) agree with the risk assessment conducted by EFSA. The recently released review from Health Canada also concluded that levels of exposure were below those that pose a risk. However, both NZFSA and FSANZ will also continue to examine other reviews from regulatory agencies.
The BPA issue has been under consideration for some years and the recent US and Canadian reports simply draw together the research. Both the Canadian and EFSA reviews conclude that human exposures are below those that give rise to effects. EFSA concluded that there was no need to take any action to change approvals for the use of bisphenol A in the production of food containers. However, the Canadian Ministers for Health and Environment have decided to propose a Bill that would ban the use of this chemical in the production of baby bottles and put restrictions on its use in the linings of cans. The Canadians media release states, “The scientists concluded in this assessment that bisphenol A exposure to newborns and infants is below levels that may pose a risk, however the gap between exposure and effect is not large enough.”
The US report from the National Toxicology Programe concluded that there is “some concern regarding neural and behavioural effects in foetuses, infants and children at current exposures, and some concern in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty in females.”\
NZFSA believes that the evidence for health effects is not strong and does not support precipitate action at this time. The NZFSA are maintaining a very close watch on developments in case new data comes forward that changes this conclusion. To date, only Canada has proposed any action.
Basically, we believe that the onus is on consumers to find out if potentially toxic chemicals are used in baby products & to make important choices for their children. As parents ourselves, we feel it is important to minimize the risk of BPA.
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