Issue Date: October 27, 2008
Bisphenol A Restrictions
DECLARING THAT BISPHENOL A (BPA) potentially may harm infants and is toxic to fish, the Canadian government has unveiled a multipronged approach to restrict this widely used chemical. This will mark the first regulation of the compound anywhere in the world.
BPA is a high-production-volume substance used in the manufacture of polycarbonate and epoxy-based plastics, including those used to line food cans. The chemical mimics estrogen, and some studies suggest that exposure to BPA may cause reproductive and developmental harm (C&EN, June 2, page 36).
On Oct. 17, two governmental agencies, Health Canada and Environment Canada, announced the country's actions against the compound. The first is a ban, which will take effect sometime in 2009, on the import, sale, and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles that contain BPA. Canada initially proposed to ban BPA-containing baby bottles in April (C&EN, April 28, page 11).
As a second action, Canada will develop stringent standards for the amount of BPA that can migrate from plastic linings of metal cans into infant formula. The government is also exploring the expansion of this requirement to all canned foods.
Canada's new standards "should benefit U.S. babies because four major companies make canned infant formula sold in both countries," says Sonya Lunder, senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization.
In addition, Canada will propose limiting the amount of BPA allowed in wastewater discharges. Environment Canada has determined that the chemical is getting into the environment through wastewater and leachate from landfills. Because BPA breaks down slowly, the compound could build up in Canadian waters and harm fish and other aquatic life, the agency says.
Canada is basing its regulatory actions on its just-released scientific assessment of BPA. The assessment concludes that the chemical "may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health" and "is acutely toxic to aquatic organisms."
Steven G. Hentges, executive director for the polycarbonate/BPA global group at the American Chemistry Council, an industry association, maintains that scientific data show that people are exposed to BPA at levels below those that cause health effects.
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