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Bisphenol A officially declared toxic by Canada

By Rory Harrington , 14-Oct-2010

Canada became the first country in the world yesterday to declare bisphenol A (BPA) to be a toxic substance that poses risks to human health and the environment.

The announcement by the Canadian Health and Environment Ministries confirmed the chemical had formally been added Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).

"The Government of Canada has a strong record of taking action on Bisphenol A to protect the environment and health of Canadians," said Environment Minister Jim Prentice. "We are continuing our leadership on this issue and...working hard to monitor and manage Bisphenol A."

BPA is an industrial chemical used to make a hard, clear plastic such as re-usable polycarbonate baby bottles. It is also used in the manufacture of epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining on the inside of metal-based food and beverage cans.

Danger to human life or health

In the order adding BPA to the toxic register, Health Canada identified dietary intake as the primary source of human exposure. It underlined concerns regarding the link between the chemical and neurodevelopmental and behavioural effects in rodents and said 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,” said the government order.

Scientific opinions

Canada’ s announcement yesterday is the culmination of two year’s deliberations and differs markedly from the recent opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which dismissed scientific concerns raised recently in scores of studies - including BPA's link with neurodevelopmental and behavioural effects. The European body said it had found no scientific evidence that would lead it to recommend altering the tolerable daily intake (TDI) of the chemical.

The Canadian position decision on BPA was also reached in the face of fierce opposition from the chemical industry. The American Chemistry Council executive director Steven Hentges yesterday said the move was “contrary to the weight of worldwide scientific evidence, unwarranted and will unnecessarily confuse and alarm the public”.

But the Canadian Government said its actions had been based on “robust and relevant scientific evidence”. It noted that Health Canada had considered both studies that were based on guidelines for good laboratory practice and those that were not because “they were considered relevant to risk characterization”.

"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,” said Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health.

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