Health Canada scientists have just concluded a four-year study of Bisphenol A, and their findings prompted the federal government to list Bisphenol A as a toxin. Bisphenol A is used to make polycarbonate plastic.
Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice and Canada's Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq announced Canada had added Bisphenol A to Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 on Wednesday in a press release. The orders listing the chemical as a toxin were also published in the government notification paper, the Canada Gazette.
In the announcement, Minister Aglukkaq said "The Government of Canada is a world leader in chemicals management. Our science indicated that Bisphenol A may be harmful to both human health and the environment and we were the first country to take bold action in the interest of Canadians. Today's action strengthens our efforts to protect Canadians."
According to the order published in the Canada Gazette, listing the chemical as a toxin allows the government to develop "... regulations, guidelines or codes of practice to protect the environment and human health. These instruments can be developed for any aspect of the substance’s life cycle from the research and development stage through manufacture, use, storage, transport and ultimate disposal or recycling. A Proposed Risk Management Approach document, which provides an indication of where the Government will focus its risk management activities, has been prepared for bisphenol A and is available on the Chemical Substances Web site."
In 2008, Health Canada said "Health Canada's Food Directorate has concluded that the current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and infants." But even though the government had decided the chemical posed a minimal health risk to Canadians, the government said infants and young children should not be exposed to the chemical, issuing a press release announcing the ban of "... the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles that contain bisphenol A (BPA)."
The government also expressed concern in 2008 that Bisphenol A was making its way into the natural "... environment through wastewaters, washing residues and leachate from landfills. It also breaks down slowly in the environment when there is a lack of oxygen. The combination of the slow break down of bisphenol A and its wide use in Canada means that over time, this chemical could build up in our waters and harm fish and other organisms."
Bisphenol A is widely used in industrial processes and it has been found in hard plastics, the linings of metal food and beverage cans, along with coatings, adhesives, sealants and many other uses. Earlier this year, CBC News reported that a United States study found Bisphenol A was in 40% of paper receipts issued to consumers at fast food check-out tills and cash machines.
The Canadian research shows that Bisphenol A bioaccumulates at low levels. More importantly, however, is the fact that "... Bisphenol A is acutely toxic to aquatic organisms and is considered highly hazardous to the aquatic environment. It can also impact the normal development of certain animals in the environment and influence the development of their offspring. There is evidence that exposure to Bisphenol A, particularly at sensitive life cycle stages, may lead to permanent alterations in hormonal, developmental or reproductive capacity for aquatic organisms."
The order goes on to state "... The European Chemicals Bureau (2003) has classified bisphenol A as a Category 3 reproductive toxicant, that is, a substance which causes concern for human fertility based on sufficient evidence of reproductive toxicity in experimental animals.
Human exposure to bisphenol A in Canada can result from dietary intake, environmental media, use of consumer products and other sources. Dietary intake is the primary source of exposure. Concern for neurobehavioural effects in newborns and infants was suggested from the neurodevelopmental and behavioural dataset in rodents. Given that available data indicate potential sensitivity to the pregnant woman/fetus and infant, and that animal studies suggest a trend towards heightened susceptibility during stages of development in rodents, it was considered appropriate to apply a precautionary approach when characterizing risk to human health. Therefore, it was concluded that bisphenol A should be considered as a substance that may be entering the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."
Toronto-based Environmental Defence has actively lobbied for Bisphenol A to be controlled and regulated by the government. In a press release issued Wednesday, the group said "Environmental Defence applauded the federal government today for adding bisphenol A (BPA) to Canada's Toxic Substances List, effective today, despite vociferous industry opposition. BPA is a substance shown to mimic the hormone estrogen and cause reproductive damage that may lead to prostate and breast cancer in adulthood. It has also been linked to immune system dysfunction, early puberty in females, heart disease, diabetes, and higher rates of miscarriage." The Executive Director, Rick Smith, added "... We look forward to now working with the federal government to take the next important step: banning BPA from all metal food and beverage cans since these can leach it into our food."
Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice wanted Canadians to be reassured the government is looking out for their health when it comes to Bisphenol A. "The Government of Canada has a strong record of taking action on Bisphenol A to protect the environment and health of Canadians. We are continuing our leadership on this issue and Canadians can rest assured that we are working hard to monitor and manage Bisphenol A."
Consumers who are interested in knowing how much BPA has been found in tinned food cans can learn more by reading the findings of the Survey of Bisphenol A in Canned Food Products from Canadian Markets.