Everyone seems to be concerned about it, but the British Government insists there’s no threat to public health.
For some time there has been growing concern among environmentalists with regard to the use of bisphenol A (BPA), the controversial chemical found in an extensive range of consumer goods, including food packaging, the lining of cans, baby & (hard) water bottles, water filters, coffee makers, water pipes, water storage tanks, & dental sealants. In fact it is so widespread that most people will come into contact with it on a daily basis. One study found that ninety five percent of adults tested, had BPA in their urine. The results of a Harvard study last May found a sixty nine percent increase of BPA in the urine of people who drank out of clear polycarbonate bottles for a week. A survey conducted by ‘The Independent’ this week found that eighteen out of the twenty of the most popular canned products, including baked beans, soup, tomatoes, sweet corn, & fish contained BPA transferred via the lining of the can. So even buying cans of organic kitchen cupboard staples won’t necessarily be the healthy option if they are lined with BPA containing materials.
Suspicions as to the potentially hazardous nature of bisphenol A have been around since the 1930’s, but it is really over the last fifteen years or so that scientific evidence regarding adverse effects began to be reported, resulting in growing fears over its safety, & escalating campaigns regarding its use.
The major concern is around the leaching of the toxic chemical from the plastic end product into our bodies, & in particular the bodies of babies & young infants. Heat appears to increase the leaching effect. BPA is known to mimic & block hormones. It has been linked with numerous health problems, including breast & prostate cancer, behavioural problems, heart disease, diabetes, liver toxicity, fertility & miscarriage. Mounting scientific evidence points to babies being developmentally at risk from even very low doses. At present there is no clear labelling of containers containing BPA.
Despite the growing body of research - as well as consensus among scientific experts - on the detrimental effects for infants, the UK government via the Food Standards Agency continues to proclaim that exposure to BPA is well within the permissible safe limits, & refuses to introduce even a temporary ban on food contact products for babies. Some retailers have voluntarily removed the products from sale; others have declared a short or long term phasing out. An increasing number of Western governments are taking action – either banning the use of BPA outright in food containers for young children as in Denmark & Canada, or introducing a temporary ban until further evidence is available, as in France. Even America has changed its long held position with regard to the safety of BPA, announcing in January that reasonable measures should be taken to limit exposure to BPA, & three states have banned its use in baby products.
The conflicting advice & information is confusing for consumers. Some of the research cited with regard to the safety of BPA is either outdated, or funded by the plastics industry & therefore with a vested interest. The evidence pointing to the harmful effects is so strong that it surely isn’t worth taking the risk of exposure, especially for the more vulnerable young members of society. The experts have this week expressed outrage at the Government’s inaction. If we want to protect our children then we need to not copy the Government’s inertia! Lobbying our MPs & making an effort to make more meals from scratch are a couple of the positive things we can do.