Health Canada Officially Declares BPA A Health HazardOct 17, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Tomorrow, Canada will become the first country to formally declare bisphenol A—BPA—hazardous to human health and will also officially inform the baby product industry it will no longer be able to use BPA in baby bottles. The announcement follows Health Minister Tony Clement’s announcement—six months prior—that Canada planned to place BPA on its list of toxic substances and ban its use in baby bottles.
In June we reported that testing of canned foods sold in Canada were found to contain BPA concentrations as high as double the levels that prompted many to stop using BPA-laced plastic baby and water bottles. Less than half a cup of tomato sauce or a cup of chicken noodle soup would exceed the lowest dose found to have an adverse effect on animals. In April, Health Canada issued a draft risk assessment indicating it planned to add BPA to the country's list of toxic substances. Health Canada tested 21 cans of liquid infant formula and found BPA in every sample, with levels ranging from 2.3 ppb to 10.2 ppb. The agency was the first in the world to take precautionary action against low-level BPA exposures.
Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence and co-author of the forthcoming book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health, saw the announcement as a "good start," adding, "There's new science coming out on a weekly basis pointing to this chemical being a health concern for adults. Baby bottles are a good start, but the government now needs to take a look at getting this chemical out of the lining in cans."
The latest research, the first large BPA study in humans published last month by the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found a "significant relationship" between exposure to the ubiquitous estrogenic chemical and heart disease, diabetes, and liver problems. Other recent research has found that BPA interferes with chemotherapy treatments and can cause obesity. Long-standing research points to hormonal disturbances and a variety of cancers and neurological and behavioral problems in adults and children.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been harshly and widely criticized for continuing to deem BPA safe and for issuing a recent draft report that BPA was safe for food storage. One of the problems with the FDA’s findings is that it seems to be relying on two industry-funded studies and ignoring many dozens of independent research findings.
Yesterday, the Washington Post published an editorial arguing that the FDA's final recommendation, expected this month, could be "seen as less than fully independent," citing the recent $5 million donation of Charles Gelman to the University of Michigan's Risk Science Center. Gelman is the retired head of a medical device manufacturing company and a known BPA supporter. The Center’s acting head, Martin Philbert, is a toxicologist and head of the FDA advisory panel delivering the BPA risk assessment. Philbert did not report the gift to the FDA as part of the disclosure process when he was appointed to the panel and continues to maintain that he did not need to do so as he does not stand to gain from the funds. The FDA is looking into a possible conflict of interest.