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Sarah Janssen’s Blog

Bisphenol A to be listed on California's Prop 65 list!

Sarah Janssen

Posted January 25, 2013 in Health and the Environment

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Today a California EPA office announced that they intend to put bisphenol A or BPA on the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive toxicity.  This listing is long overdue and is not based on any new science.

In fact, today’s listing is based on a 2008 report by another federal agency, the National Toxicology Program, which found clear evidence of harm at high doses.  The NTP report serves as an authoritative source for listing chemicals on Prop 65 and should have triggered an automatic listing by Cal EPA.   

However, the listing didn’t happen automatically or quickly and it took a nudge from NRDC to get BPA on the Prop 65 list.  One year after the NTP report came out, in 2009, NRDC filed a petition requesting the listing, in 2010 Cal EPA put out a call for scientific data and now over two years later the next step in the process has finally occurred, the intention to list. 

The listing still isn’t final. The agency has announced a 30 day comment period and once those comments have been reviewed, hopefully, without any further delay, the listing will be final. Cal EPA also put out a regulatory limit or maximum allowable dose (MADL) as part of today’s notice with a 45 day comment period. 

A Prop 65 listing is not a ban of the chemical but can trigger warning labels if exposure from a consumer product is expected to be greater than regulatory levels.  The proposed MADL for BPA is relatively high at 290 micrograms/day and is not likely to trigger any warning labels on canned food or beverages.

However, a listing alone is quite significant and makes official what parents have known for years – BPA is harmful and should be avoided. BPA is practically a household word these days. Everyone has heard of it. Everyone has seen the “BPA-free” labels.  Baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula no longer contain BPA. However, many of us continue to be exposed to BPA in canned foods and drinks where it is used as a lining.  

Since the NTP report was released over 4 years ago, there has been an explosion in the research on BPA.  More and more studies of BPA at lower doses continue to find evidence of harm not just in the reproductive system but also in the mammary gland, brain and increasingly there are links to obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Because of FDA’s refusal to ban use in food packaging and a long delay in finalizing any safety evaluations, a number of states have decided to protect their most vulnerable.  Just last week, the state of Maine banned BPA in infant formula and baby food packaging despite strong opposition by the chemical industry and the Governor.  Previously, eleven states have banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups and at least two others have banned BPA in infant formula.

Despite these welcome announcements, we are still a long way from protecting the public from harmful BPA exposures. Until we can eliminate BPA from food packaging and ensure that any replacement chemicals are shown to be safe, the most vulnerable of all, a developing fetus, will not be protected from BPA exposures.  Read our tips here on how to reduced your own exposure.

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Comments

Sue ChiangJan 25 2013 11:49 PM

Excellent and informative article, Sarah! Thank you and NRDC for filing the petition and getting CalEPA to finally take some action on listing BPA on the Prop 65 list.

Peter CrownfieldJan 26 2013 07:08 AM

What about BPS and all the other bisphenol varieties and related compounds? Now that many manufacturers have eliminated BPA, getting it on the list isn't as significant as it would be to get the entire class banned.

Sarah JanssenJan 28 2013 05:04 PM

Thanks for the comments.

I just want to clarify that at Prop 65 listing is not a ban - just a warning label requirement. It will still be legal to use BPA in canned food and beverage packaging in California and elsewhere. In addition, even though the "safe harbor level" or MADL that has been proposed is quite high and won't result in any labeling of foods on store shelves, no one should think that having BPA in canned food has been found to be safe. Even the FDA has not definitively said this.

Because of limitations in the authoritative bodies listing mechanism for Prop 65 chemicals, the MADL is based on the studies used by NTP in 2008 to demonstrate “clear evidence of harm” and at the time those were the high dose studies. Though the MADL of 290 micrograms/day is lower than EPA or FDA’s current “safe” level, no one should consider it to be a “safe” level of exposure to BPA.

The science on BPA has progressed since the NTP report was published over 5 years ago. Now there is even more evidence that much lower levels of exposure, within the range that most people continue to be exposed to, are linked to harmful health effects, including cancer and metabolic disorders such as heart disease and obesity.

BPS is definitely of concern to NRDC as it is one of the major replacement chemicals and like BPA is also a hormone disrupting chemical. However, listing BPS and other replacements on Prop 65 would require a separate process to identify them as hazardous. As you can see, this chemical by chemical approach is painfully slow and not at all protective of human health. That is why NRDC has been working so hard to reform the federal laws governing the use of chemicals. Learn more at www.takeouttoxics.org

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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