6th Dec 2022

EU clears baby bottle chemical despite Canada ban

  • Bisphenol A, a chemical commonly found in baby bottles, is safe in small amounts, European food safety experts have found (Photo: Wikipedia)

A chemical commonly found in baby bottles and teethers that has been taken off the shelves in Canada is safe for European infants, the EU's food safety monitors have found.

The levels of bisphenol A, or BPA, found in such items is safe for infants in small amounts, according to a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)scientific opinion issued on Wednesday (23 July), which stated that the substance "provides a sufficient margin of safety for the protection of the consumer, including fetuses and newborns."

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"After exposure to BPA, the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates the substance," the report added. "The exposure of the human foetus to BPA would be negligible because the mother rapidly metabolises and eliminates BPA from her body."

"The scientists also concluded that newborns are similarly able to metabolise and eliminate BPA at doses below 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight per day."

Controversy surrounding the chemical exploded in April this year, when EFSA's Canadian counterpart, Health Canada, released an assessment of BPA that concluded it may pose some risk to infants and proposed reclassifying the chemical as "toxic" to human health and the environment.

Responding to the report, the same month, the Canadian health minister announced that his government would ban the import sale and advertising of baby bottles that contained BPA. Supermarket chain Wal-Mart subsequently announced it was pulling all infant-related products, including teethers and sippy cups, that contained the substance both in Canada and the United States.

The Wal-Mart decision was quickly replicated by a number of other retailers and some manufacturers in the US and Canada.

Another 2008 report drawing similar conclusions to Health Canada's assessment from the US National Toxicology Program said: "There is some concern for neural and behavioral effects in foetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures," and that there is "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."

BPA is what is known as an endocrine disrupter, a chemical that acts like hormones in the endocrine system and can disrupt the working of a person's own hormones, resulting in a range of problems, including reduced fertility, reproductive tract abnormalities, early onset of puberty, brain and behaviour problems, impaired immune functions a series of cancers and menstrual problems.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC), the US chemistry industry association, welcomed the EFSA conclusion.

"The safety of our products is our top priority," said Steven Hentges, a member of the ACC's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group. "The conclusions reported today provide strong reassurance to consumers that they are not at risk."

EFSA said it would continue to monitor closely scientific findings regarding BPA and any related health effects.

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