In the spirit of our commitment to communicate to our owners, we feel it necessary to share the latest information regarding health concerns about the use of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used to create many common grocery containers. In our store, these include refillable water jugs and the lining in the cans of some canned foods. We are working on getting information from our canned goods vendors as to whether or not they use BPA in the can lining for their products. This list will be posted on our website and at our Member Resource Center as well as online and will be updated as we get more information. We will pass along our concerns (as well as any concerns voiced by our members) to these vendors. We will also actively search for other products that do not contain BPA in their cans and, as we find them, evaluate them to determine if they should replace products we currently carry.

For more information regarding past Reader articles about Bisphenol-A and plastics, please see the newsletter archive on our website at www.willystreet.coop.

(We also offer options in glass and paper (asceptic) packaging for some of those items which are normally packed in cans.)

Overview

Recent research and government findings have raised new concerns about the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) found in polycarbonate plastics and possible negative effects on human health. Below is a synopsis of the most recent information, research, government findings, and press releases on BPA and polycarbonate plastics.

What is Bisphenol A?

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and certain resins.

What products is it in?

BPA can be found in most Polycarbonate plastics (plastic packaging with the #7 recycling symbol), which are used in certain baby bottles, plastic sports bottles, water cooler bottles, and other food and drink packaging. Epoxy resins containing BPA are used as coatings for metal food cans, bottle caps, and water pipes. The amount of Bisphenol-A produced in the United States in 2004 alone is estimated at 2.3 billion pounds.

What are the concerns?

Recent research done on polycarbonate plastics and human exposure to BPA have shown some concern that this chemical is an endocrine disrupter and can be leached into food and beverages, especially in containers that are heated (baby bottles for instance) or polycarbonate containers that have been used and washed extensively and started to break down.

A recent report by The Work Group for Safe Markets, a coalition of environmental NGOs in the U.S. and Canada, found that in polycarbonate baby bottles tested for BPA leaching, “all bottles showed significant levels of leaching in the range of 5-8 ng/ml (ppb) when heated.” The report is based on research done by the laboratory of Frederick vom Saal, PhD., at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The report also concluded that, “After a polycarbonate plastic bottle goes through repeat washing in the dishwasher, or simply with hot water, the plastic can degrade and the amount of bisphenol A leaching from the bottle increases” Furthermore, “Acidic materials, such as apple juice, break apart the bonds that hold bisphenol A molecules together,” which could lead to increased leaching of BPA.

According to the recently released National Toxicology Program (NTP) Draft Brief on Bisphenol A completed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), there may be some health risks associated with exposure to BPA. The NTP concluded that: “there is some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures [and] some concern for bisphenol A exposure in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females.”

Other animal experiments have shown that exposure to low levels of BPA could be linked to other health problems, including: “obesity, hyperactivity, lowered sperm count, miscarriage, diabetes and altered immune system.”

Government and industry action

As a result of the National Toxicology Program’s findings on BPA, the FDA has now decided to review the safety of BPA in consumer products. In previous reports, the FDA has concluded that BPA is safe at current exposure levels.5 Furthermore, 10 states including the U.S. Congress are currently debating proposed bans on BPA plastics. As of January 2008 there is an ongoing U.S. congressional investigation into the use of BPA in products used by infants and children.

The government of Canada has decided to label BPA as toxic and ban any infant bottles made with the chemical. Canada has labeled BPA polycarbonate safe for those over 18 months of age. The Canadian government’s action has caused many large retailers there, including Wal-Mart Canada and two large Canadian outdoor sports retailers, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Lululemon, to remove any BPA plastics from their stores.

Links to more information on bisphenol A and bisphenol A-free products

Government and Non-Governmental Organizations:

Product Information: