Canada Could Ban Baby Bottles Containing Bisphenol A

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, April 22, 2008 (ENS) – The Canadian government is asking for public comment on whether or not to ban the import, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles than contain the chemical bisphenol A. The chemical has been shown to leach from some plastics, harming human health by disrupting normal hormone and neurological function and altering gene activity.

Some Canadian retailers have already pulled bottles made with the substance off store shelves.

Health Minister Tony Clement and Environment Minister John Baird announced the action Friday and the 60 day public comment period began on Saturday.

“Canada has been the first country in the world to conduct risk assessments on a number of chemicals of concern, as a result of a new initiative announced by the Prime Minister on December 8, 2006 known as the Chemicals Management Plan,” said Clement.

Baby drinking out of a polycarbonate plastic bottle (Photo by Wendy Lane)

“We have immediately taken action on bisphenol A, because we believe it is our responsibility to ensure families, Canadians and our environment are not exposed to a potentially harmful chemical,” he said.

Health Canada’s screening assessment of bisphenol A primarily focused on its impacts on newborns and infants up to 18 months of age; however, health risks for Canadians of all ages were considered in the screening.

It was determined that the main source of exposure for newborns and infants is through the use of polycarbonate baby bottles when they are exposed to high temperatures and the migration of bisphenol A from cans into infant formula.

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.

“When it comes to Canada’s environment, you can’t put a price on safety,” said Baird. “Not only are we finding out about the health impacts of bisphenol A, but the environmental impacts as well. That’s why our government will be moving forward and will work with the provinces and stakeholders to keep bisphenol A out of our environment, and take the necessary measures to ensure its safe use and disposal.”

The Canadian government is proposing to reduce bisphenol A exposure in infants and newborns by banning polycarbonate baby bottles and developing stringent migration targets for bisphenol A in infant formula cans, which are lined with a material containing the chemical.

The government proposes to work with industry to develop alternative food packaging and develop a code of practice and to list bisphenol A under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Environment Canada scientists found that at low levels, bisphenol A can harm fish and aquatic organisms over time. Studies indicate that it can currently be found in wastewater and sludge treatment plants.

Polycarbonate baby bottles are a health hazard, the Canadian government warns. (Photo credit unknown)

The top Canadian Green Party official says bisphenol A is found not only in polycarbonate plastic baby bottles and in the lining of canned foods and beverages but also in childrens’ toys, baby bottles, dental sealants, sports helmets, compact discs and other materials made from hard plastics.

Canadians should take appropriate precautions to protect against bisphenol A exposure from all sources, said Green Party leader Elizabeth May.

“Bisphenol A is toxic to humans even at extremely low levels. It is particularly dangerous to children,” said May. “That’s why the safest bet is to avoid, whenever possible, consuming food or beverage that has come into contact with plastic of any type.”

“Consumers can easily switch to non-plastic bottles,” she said, “they can purchase food in glass jars and with a little research, can uncover companies who package food in cans without bisphenol A.”

May said that nonylphenol, another hazardous substance with similar hormone-disrupting properties should be given the same attention as bisphenol A. Nonlyphenol can also be found in plastics, as well as personal care products, commercial and household cleaners and some manufacturing processes.

Nonylphenol and its derivatives have already been banned in the European Union due to concerns over both human health and its effect on aquatic life after entering waterways

“This is a good first step and we urge the government to ban bisphenol A without delay,” said May. “But bisphenol A is only the tip of the toxic iceberg. We need to protect human health by restricting other dangerous chemicals, like nonylphenol, as well.”

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has not banned bisphenol A.

Today, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, GMA, released a science policy paper on bisphenol A that attempts to reassure consumers that the chemical is safe.

The GMA paper emphasizes that, “Internationally accepted protocols of reproductive and developmental assays have reported no reproductive toxicity or adverse effects on the fetus at high doses, in the absence of general systemic toxicity.”

Grocers are concerned that customers may back away from purchasing foods in cans lined with bisphenol A. (Photo credit unknown)

Higher doses of bisphenol A are needed to produce effects in humans compared with rodents, the GMA says, in an effort to debunk studies done on mice and rats.

“The reference dose calculated by the EPA to be protective of the public health is more than 100 times greater than estimated human exposure to bisphenol A,” the grocery association says.

“Data purporting to demonstrate ‘low’ dose effects on the male reproductive system by BPA have not been successfully replicated and, therefore, are not credible to estimate human health risks and safety in light of the weight of a large body of evidence to the contrary,” the association says.

And finally, the GMA paper points out that neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the World Health Organization has set any regulatory guidelines for bisphenol A, as they have not deemed any restrictions necessary.

The National Toxicology Program “recently concluded that there is minimal risk associated with the chemical,” the GMA paper says.

But last August, a 12 member panel of government, university and industry scientists convened by the National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction to evaluate bisphenol A confirmed that the chemical can leach from containers into the food and drinks they hold.

While the panel did not call for a ban on bisphenol A, the members expressed “some concern” that exposure to the chemical while in the womb “causes neural and behavioral effects.”

The panel also expressed concern that exposure to bisphenol A causes neural and behavioral effects in children.

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