Saturday, May 8, 2010

Discerning the facts about BPA

In a comment on May 6, LizBeth asked me to discuss the issue of BPA in greater depth.

Bisphenol-A is an industrial chemical used to make certain plastics and resins. It makes them hard and transparent (e.g. beverage bottles). Resins made with BPA are used to line cans.  All canned foods in the US use resin linings containing BPA.  It is currently the center of a medical, scientific, economic, and political controversy.

This article, from Natural News, "FDA Continues Dragging Its Feet on Bisphenol-A", summarizes the concerns of many and indicates the political nature of the federal regulatory process.

On the other side of the fence, the American Chemistry Council's Bisphenol-A Information website, says a new study vindicates the use of BPA, "New study concludes no effects from BPA on the nervous system." 

The FDA's current position is found in its January 2010 BPA Update. 

A dissenting government view comes from the National Toxicology Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, "Since You Asked".  Among things, they report:  "The NTP has some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A. " Note that "Some Concern" is the mid-level of a five-level "concern rating" used by the agency.

As with many environmental health issues these days, the jury is still out.  It looks like the dangers are greatest for infants and children.  Questions in the background of this debate include --
  • How much do I trust government science agencies?
  • How much do I trust industry scientific reports/claims?
  • How much environmental risk am I willing to assume in my life?  The lives of my children?
Each scientific study must be considered, not only for the science report, but also for the political and economic background of the research. 

Persons who want to limit BPA exposure should:
  • Use glass, stainless steel, or porcelain containers.
  • Avoid all number 7 plastics.
  • Avoid all canned foods in metal containers.
  • Do not microwave polycarbonate plastic containers.
  • Make sure baby bottles are BPA-free.


  1. Hey, Bob, thanks for some specifics. That helps. Liz

  2. Once again we see the government's favor toward the chemical industry. The regulators assume that a substance is safe unless it's proven to be harmful. We ought to insist that the standards be reversed: any substance should be assumed hazardous unless proven safe.

    Will we ever get there? The chemical industry is very powerful and has a lot of allies in Congress.

  3. Or not use baby bottles at all! I breastfed 3 babies and never used a bottle for any of them.