Despite claims that it is dangerous to human health, the plastics industry and the Food and Drug Administration have insisted throughout the years that Bisphenol-A, a chemical used to make hard plastics and the lining of canned foods, is perfectly safe for humans to ingest.
Industry spokesmen say that BPA is a safe and effective means of packaging food to protect it from contamination. They argue that finding an equally effective alternative would take years of research.
Some 90 percent of Americans are estimated to have BPA in their bloodstream, leading environmental groups to launch an aggressive but so far unsuccessful lobbying campaign to ban the chemical from food packaging.
Sure, the FDA did agree to pass a rule stipulating that BPA cannot be used in infant formula packaging, baby bottles or sippy cups in 2013, but even then the agency asserted it wasn’t doing so for safety reasons. In fact, the FDA only agreed to ban the chemical in baby products at the request of the manufacturers. “FDA’s action is based solely on a determination of abandonment,” meaning the industry said it had stopped using BPA, “and is not related to the safety of BPA,” the agency wrote in 2013.
Still being found
Given the official stamp of approval, it should be no surprise that researchers are continuing to find BPA in products across the board, including products designed for some of our most vulnerable populations.
Researchers at the University of Missouri recently fed 14 dogs canned food, rather than the bagged food that the pets normally ate, for two weeks. They found that even in cases in which the canned food was labeled “BPA-free,” that the presence of BPA in the dogs’ blood samples increased an average of almost threefold after the two-week period.
The increased presence of BPA in pets has implications for both dogs' health and humans. “We also found that increased serum BPA concentrations were correlated with gut microbiome and metabolic changes in the dogs analyzed,” study co-author Cheryl Rosenfeld told Science Daily. "Increased BPA may also reduce one bacterium that has the ability to metabolize BPA and related environmental chemicals."
Researchers have previously warned that products advertised as BPA-free aren’t necessarily any better. Hard plastics and canned food liners, even those not made with BPA, often contain bisphenols or other endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Another study published earlier this month evaluates baby teethers for the presence of BPA. Previous research has suggested that BPA exposure is especially dangerous for small children and babies.
The research team in this case soaked 59 different teethers in purified water to evaluate whether the teethers leached the chemicals. The results, published in the American Chemical Society this month, show that small amounts of bisphenols, benzophenones and parabens leached from the teethers, even from teethers that were labeled as “BPA-free.”
“Almost 90 percent of the teethers we bought were labeled as BPA-free, but we found BPA in almost every product and most were labeled as non-toxic,” Study author Kurunthachalam Kannan, a research scientist at New York State Department of Health, told CBS News. “We were finding more than 15 to 20 toxic chemicals in all of the them.”
Plastics industry trade group the American Chemistry Council, meanwhile, continues to say there is nothing to worry about. “It should be noted that all the chemicals studied here are shown to be at extremely low exposure levels and well-below government set safe levels,” the group wrote in response to the baby-teether study.