Myth: BPA is an endocrine disruptor that causes health effects by interacting with the human body’s endocrine system.
Reality: In a Q&A that accompanied its recent comprehensive review of BPA, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) asked “Is BPA an ‘endocrine disruptor’?” The answer stated: “In their 2015 opinion on BPA, EFSA’s experts reviewed all literature on potential endocrine-related effects of BPA. … Therefore, based on the WHO [World Health Organization] criteria, it is not possible to conclude that BPA is an endocrine disruptor.”
Reality: When government scientists review studies to make a safety recommendation, they look at the “weight of the evidence,” meaning the information available from all sources, and how well each study was conducted. The issue is not the quantity of studies, but their quality and the scientific value. Studies are different, and are not of the same quality. Some are conducted according to internationally recognized standards that ensure methodological and statistical reliability, and others are not.
Reality: There is no evidence that BPA exposure increases the risk of prostate cancer. While a recent University of Illinois study attempted to examine the effects of BPA exposure on the human prostate, the study has very limited relevance to real-life human exposures to BPA as the levels tested were more than 1,000 times higher than typical human exposures. In addition, the validity of the experimental model studied, which involves grafting ‘humanized prostate-like structures’ derived from human and rat tissues into mice and treatment with an artificial mixture of hormones, has not been well established.
The FDA states that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. Additionally, the causes of prostate cancer have been extensively researched. According to the American Cancer Society, major risk factors for prostate cancer include age, race, nationality, family history/genes, and lifestyle factors such as obesity and diet. Men can benefit most from facts that help them take meaningful steps to reduce risk.
Reality: There is no need for concern. The FDA has recently stated that BPA, used to make epoxy resin-based protective coatings for food and drink cans, is safe for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging. Government bodies around the world have concluded that the levels of human exposure to BPA from all sources combined, including food packaging, do not pose a risk to human health.
BPA-free products are no safer than other products because BPA in food contact materials does not pose a risk to human health. “Free of” claims on food packaging have nothing to do with the FDA’s safety determination. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has specifically cautioned that “free-of claims may deceive consumers by falsely suggesting that … the marketer has ‘‘improved’’ the product by removing the substance.”
Myth: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups due to concerns over BPA safety.
Reality: It is a common misconception that the FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. Despite the fact that BPA has been proven safe for use in food containers, consumer demand led manufacturers to remove BPA from baby products, including baby bottles and sippy cups. ACC requested the regulation change in September 2011 to reflect the state of the consumer marketplace and to eliminate confusion for parents, and the FDA agreed. FDA’s decision was not based on any determination that BPA is unsafe.
Government and scientific bodies around the globe have extensively evaluated the weight of scientific evidence on BPA and have declared that BPA is safe as used, including in materials that come into contact with food, such as reusable food-storage containers and linings in metal cans.
Consumer exposure to BPA is very low, and numerous studies on laboratory animals show that BPA is efficiently converted after exposure to an inactive form, which is then rapidly eliminated from the body. These findings have been confirmed in clinical studies involving human volunteers exposed to BPA at levels much higher than typical consumer exposures. Although BPA itself is weakly estrogenic, extensive research demonstrates that trace levels of BPA in the diet are far too low to cause any estrogenic effects.
Reality: The British Heart Foundation, which has supported research in this area, notes there is no cause for the public or heart patients to be concerned about BPA.
One recent, small-scale study published in the American Heart Association journal, Hypertension, reported an increase in blood pressure measurements after subjects drank soy milk from cans containing BPA. However, as reported by the authors, there were no statistically significant differences in the primary blood pressure measurements of the three treatment groups, whether participants drank soy milk from glass bottles or cans. In fact, as noted by the authors, blood pressure is believed to be controlled by estrogen receptors and it is well-known that soy milk contains high - and variable - levels of estrogenic substances. Accordingly, the use of soy milk in the study confounds the results. In contrast to soy milk, BPA is only weakly estrogenic and trace levels of BPA in the diet have been shown to be far too low to cause any estrogenic effects. Slight differences in blood pressure reported in the study may be due to the soy milk itself, but are not likely related to trace levels of BPA.
Two recent studies published in the journals Circulation and PLoS One reported statistical relationships between levels of BPA metabolites in urine with the incidence of coronary artery disease (CAD) and levels of coronary atherosclosis. In these studies, participants provided a urine sample at a single point in time for BPA analysis. Due to the design of these studies, however, their results have significant limitations and provide little, if any, information on the potential for BPA to cause heart disease. Because the single urine sample provides no information on BPA exposures during the critical time periods when heart disease developed, the studies cannot establish a cause-effect relationship between BPA exposure and CAD or coronary atherosclosis. These limitations led the British Heart Foundation, which supported the first of the two studies with a grant, to state: “We don't believe there is any cause for the public or heart patients to be concerned by BPA."
Reality: The safety of exposure to BPA in pregnant women and infants has been well-studied. Large-scale biomonitoring studies in the U.S. and Canada show that typical consumer exposure to BPA is far below safe limits set by government agencies—these studies include children, adults, and pregnant women. In fact, a 2014 Health Canada study found that exposure to BPA in pregnant women is more than a thousand times lower than the safe intake level established by government agencies around the world.
A recent study of days-old infants published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed they have the innate ability to clear BPA from the body. Furthermore, studies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and researchers at Harvard and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have demonstrated that both pregnant mothers and premature infants have ample capacity and capability to metabolize and rapidly eliminate BPA from the body. Finally, a 2014 study by FDA researchers demonstrated that fetal and post-natal exposure of rats to BPA did not result in the development of any significant adverse health effects and other research from FDA demonstrates BPA is unlikely to cause health effects at typical exposure levels.
Reality: There is no reliable evidence that BPA exposure causes diminished lung function or wheeze, symptoms of asthma, in children.
A recent JAMA Pediatrics study by A. Spanier et al. suggested that prenatal BPA exposure might be linked to diminished lung function and wheeze in children. However, the statistical associations reported in this small-scale study were described by the study authors as ‘inconsistent’ and ‘borderline.’ In any case, the study only examined statistical associations and has no capability to establish a cause and effect relationship between exposure to low levels of BPA and asthma. This limited and inconsistent study does little to inform the scientific community or parents about the causes of asthma in children.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods. Earlier this year, FDA scientists published the results of a large-scale government-funded study demonstrating that low-dose exposure to BPA did not result in the development of adverse health effects. We know from additional studies that even premature infants have ample capacity and capability to metabolize and eliminate BPA, which indicates that low level exposures are unlikely to cause health effects.
Myth: I will be harmed from BPA exposure if I use my hands to eat french fries or other foods after using a hand sanitizer and touching thermal receipt paper.
Reality: While some receipts made from thermal paper can contain BPA, the most relevant experimental data shows very little BPA exposure from scenarios that are representative of real-life contact with thermal receipt paper. Notably, a recent study from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Porras et al., 2014) found no significant exposure to BPA from handling receipt paper using real-life exposure scenarios. BPA exposure from all sources is about 1,000 times below safe intake levels set by government bodies in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Also, available data suggests that BPA is not readily absorbed through the skin.
Included in the Finnish study were conditions representative of cashiers (i.e., repeated handling of receipts throughout a workday) and more intensive short-term handling considered to be beyond normal handling of paper receipts. Consistent with these measurements of low exposure from handling thermal receipt paper, recent biomonitoring data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrate that consumer exposure to BPA – from all sources – is extremely low. In fact, a recent study looking into this very concern, ‘Transfer of bisphenol A from thermal printer paper to the skin,’ (Biedermann, Tschudin & Grob, 2010) shows that while low levels of BPA can transfer from thermal paper to skin, those levels are well below government-set safe intake levels, even under the “worst-case” conditions included in the study. Another recent study, ‘Viable skin efficiently absorbs and metabolizes bisphenol A,’ (Zalko, D., et al., 2010) showed that BPA is effectively converted as it penetrates through the skin to a biologically inactive metabolite, which is then quickly eliminated from the body.
Learn more about BPA and thermal receipt paper here.
Reality: Materials used in contact with food or beverages in the U.S. are evaluated for safety by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has recently stated that BPA, used to make polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, is safe for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging.
“Free of” claims on food packaging have nothing to do with FDA’s safety determination. “Free of” claims are frequently used for advertising purposes to signal the absence of a chemical or material. Note that the Federal Trade Commission has specifically cautioned that “free-of claims may deceive consumers by falsely suggesting that … the marketer has ‘‘improved’’ the product by removing the substance.”
Reality: Studies have concluded that BPA is not a carcinogenic risk to humans. Linking BPA to breast cancer misrepresents science and scares women unnecessarily. The Susan G. Komen Foundation, one of the leading breast cancer advocacy groups, addresses BPA and breast cancer in a 2014 report:
Links between plastics and cancer are often reported by the media and in e-mail hoaxes…. However, there is no scientific evidence supporting a link between using plastic items, such as drinking water from a plastic bottle, and the risk of breast cancer.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical found in some plastic food and beverage containers. Small amounts of BPA from the containers can get into the food and beverages inside. As a result, we can be exposed to low levels of BPA. At this time, there is no evidence to suggest a link between BPA and the risk of breast cancer.
There has been extensive research into the leading causes of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society report Facts & Figures 2013-2014 lists family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition, personal history of cancer, and lifestyle factors such as obesity/weight gain and physical activity as significant indicators. Women are best served with facts that can help them take meaningful steps to reduce risk.
Reality: Several studies on human volunteers have shown that the very small amount of BPA that may be ingested by a person during normal daily activities is efficiently converted to biologically inactive metabolites, which are eliminated from the human body within 24 hours. In contrast, similar studies on rodents, which are commonly used for toxicity studies, have demonstrated that rodents are less efficient at eliminating BPA from the body.
Reality: Many studies have measured the amount of BPA that can migrate into foods and beverages from polycarbonate containers. The measured amounts are minute, and well below safety standards set by government regulatory agencies around the world. In fact, a consumer would have to ingest more than 1,300 pounds of food and beverages in contact with polycarbonate plastic each day just to reach the safe intake level set by the European Food Safety Authority.
Extensive data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that typical human exposure to BPA from all sources, including from food stored in polycarbonate containers and bottles is approximately 1,000 times below the safe intake level recently set by the European Food Safety Authority. Government bodies around the world have concluded that these levels do not pose a risk to human health. In September 2010, EFSA reviewed over 800 new studies on BPA and concluded that “they could not identify any new evidence which would lead them to revise the current tolerable daily intake.”
Reality: The Food Standards Australia New Zealand stated that “BPA does not cause cancer,” and that BPA exposure levels for both infants and adults are very small and do not pose a risk to human health.
Based on sound, robust scientific evidence, some government bodies around the world have concluded that BPA is not carcinogenic in humans. In 2008, a comprehensive European Union risk assessment reviewed all relevant scientific evidence and concluded that “BPA does not possess any significant carcinogenic potential.”
BPA has been safely used for decades, and it has been the subject of many scientific studies. Government regulators have the responsibility of reviewing all studies and considering issues like study design and quality and whether the result of any particular study was repeated in other studies. In the United States, the agency charged with this review for food contact applications is FDA. In January 2010, FDA stated that “studies employing standardized toxicity tests have thus far supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure to BPA” and did not take regulatory action. In 2013, the FDA reconfirmed this perspective when it released an update stating that “BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods.”
Myth: Government agencies rely on only a few industry-funded studies and ignore other science when making safety determinations about BPA.
Reality: In June 2013, the FDA updated their perspective stating that “BPA is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods,” based on review by FDA scientists of hundreds of studies.
Government agencies have established procedures regarding how they review scientific studies. Once agencies establish these rules, they apply them objectively and consistently, regardless of what entity provides the funding, what lab conducts the research or which researcher oversees the study.