What is Bisphenol A and How Is It Used?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an important industrial chemical that is primarily used as a precursor to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins.
· Polycarbonate is a lightweight, high-performance plastic with a unique balance of shatter-resistance, optical clarity, and high heat resistance. It is an ideal choice for many consumer products including sports safety equipment, CDs/DVDs, electronic equipment, glazing and automotive uses, reusable bottles, food storage containers and tableware. Life-saving medical devices such as incubators, dialysis machines, and heart-lung machines include critical components made from polycarbonate.
· Epoxy resins are a versatile class of materials with an exceptional combination of toughness, adhesion, and chemical resistance. Among the many uses are industrial floorings and coatings, adhesives, automotive primers, and printed circuit boards. Most metal food and beverage cans have a thin coating of an epoxy resin on the interior surface, which protects public health by preventing corrosion of the can and contamination of food and beverages with metals.
· Materials made from BPA are used for formulate high performance medical products such as dental sealants and composites, which play an important role in preventing childhood tooth decay and maintaining dental health.
· Polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins contain only minute levels of BPA remaining from the manufacturing process. Consequently, it is virtually impossible for consumers to come into contact with any significant amount of BPA.
Is Bisphenol A Safe for Use?
· Scientific and government bodies worldwide have examined the scientific evidence and consistently reach the conclusion that BPA is not a risk to human health. Recent examples include comprehensive risk assessments in Japan and Europe and a review by an independent panel of experts organized by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis.
· Regulatory agencies worldwide authorize the use of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins for food and beverage contact uses. In regard to California legislation AB 319 proposing to ban products containing BPA, the US FDA stated:
“FDA continues to closely follow the research in this area. However, based on all the evidence available at this time, FDA sees no reason to change it’s long-held position that current uses with food are safe.” and “Considering all the evidence, including measurements by FDA chemists of levels found in canned food or migrating from baby bottles, FDA sees no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict the uses now in practice.”
· Bisphenol A is one of the most extensively tested of all substances and has been safely used for more than 50 years. The scientific data indicates that BPA has very low toxicity.
· Numerous studies have confirmed that human exposure to BPA is extremely low. Typical human exposure levels are ~100-1,000 times lower than the safe levels set by government agencies worldwide and ~1,000,000 times lower than the levels shown to cause no adverse effects in comprehensive safety studies on laboratory animals.
· The human body has a remarkable ability to metabolize and eliminate the low levels of BPA to which people might be exposed. Any exposure to BPA is eliminated from the body within a day and BPA does not accumulate in the body.
What Should You Know About Recent Reports on Bisphenol A?
A recent “Commentary” published by F. S. vom Saal presents the opinion that widespread exposure to BPA poses a threat to human health. However, the commentary is incomplete and misleading with an opinion not supported by the scientific evidence.
· The premise of the commentary that most studies report low-dose effects is misleading. The number of studies indicates only the level of interest in BPA and nothing about risks to human health. No matter how many studies, the sum of weak evidence does not make strong evidence.
· The opinion presented is not based on a rigorous analysis as would be needed to reach a scientific conclusion based on the evidence. The relevance to human health of many studies cited in the commentary has not been demonstrated and many are of limited or no relevance. As noted above, rigorous analyses have been recently conducted by government and scientific bodies worldwide and each supports the conclusion that BPA is not a risk to human health. The opinion expressed in the commentary does not change that conclusion.
· The discussion in the commentary on human exposure to BPA is incomplete and alarmist. Recent studies, including one from the US CDC, show that human exposure to BPA is extremely low, well below the levels tested in “low-dose” studies and also well below safe levels determined by government bodies worldwide.
Where Can I Get More Information on Bisphenol A?
· For more information on the referenced studies and analyses, or to answer any questions on BPA, please contact Tim Shestek of the American Chemistry Council at (916) 448-2581 or Steve Hentges of the American Plastics Council at (703) 741-5588.
· For more information on FDA’s views, contact the FDA press office at (301) 436-2335.
· Information on the Harvard evaluation is at http://www.hcra.harvard.edu/pdf/August2004.pdf or contact Dr. George Gray at (617) 432-4341
· For an alternative view, see the “The Facts about Bisphenol A” at http://www.acsh.org/publications/pubID.1033/pub_detail.asp or contact Jeff Stier of the American Council on Science and Health at (212) 362-7044.