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Opposing Views on Bisphenol-A in the EU and Canada: One Labels it Toxic, The Other Safe

It seems that the EU and Canada have dramatically contrasting views on the toxicity of Bisphenol-A (BPA). One has declared it toxic and the other safe. Who's right?

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), pulling a page out of the FDA's book, says there is no convincing evidence to cause it to ban BPA or further restrict exposure to the controversial chemical used in plastic bottles and containers.

Meanwhile, the Canadian federal government has made good on a two-year-old promise to add bisphenol A to the country's list of toxic substances, in spite of industry opposition.

Looks like Canada has the edge on interpretting and addressing the factual information regarding the toxicity of BPA, while the EU appears to be catering to the plastic industry rather than the safety of its citizens.

In the EU, Health campaigners have reacted with dismay after officials decided against restricting or banning BPA, despite evidence of links to cancer and infertility. It is believed people ingest the chemical when it leaches into food from polycarbonate plastic food containers, bottles and tableware, and from tin cans.

According to a study last year, 50 chemicals capable of interfering with hormones is permitted in packaging in the United States and the European Union.

A study appearing online in the Journal of Andrology showed that the increasing BPA levels in urine are associated with worsening male sexual function, according to a Kaiser Permanente

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine recently discovered that exposure during pregnancy to BPA causes permanent abnormalities in the uterus of offspring, including alteration in their DNA.

The Endocrine Society issued has issued more than one scientific statement highlighting the dangers of BPA and for better studies into its effects.

Most evidence continues to support previous research that exposure to current levels of BPA can affect gene expression and fertility of women just 12 hours after exposure.

At low levels of exposure, studies link BPA exposure to developmental toxicity, neuro-toxicity, cancer, obesity, infertility, and birth defects including Down Syndrome.

Yet despite overhwhelming evidence, European food safety officials still say that findings to date do not provide convincing evidence of the toxicity of BPA.

The re-assessment by the EU came after new studies reported adverse effects on animals exposed to BPA at low doses, including on their nervous system, immune system and susceptibility to breast cancer.

Earlier this year, an alliance of groups, including WWF, Breast Cancer UK and The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) backed an open letter sent sent by 21 scientists to EFSA saying they feared exposure to BPA could damage health, particularly among vulnerable groups such as babies and pregnant women.

Even the National Cancer Institute in the US has also recently called for the use of BPA in consumer products to be more tightly regulated.

However, in a statement issued, EFSA said: "These studies have many shortcomings. At present the relevance of these findings for human health cannot be assessed, though should any new relevant data become available in the future, the Panel will reconsider this opinion."

In 2008, Canada became the first country in the world to ban the chemical, an estrogen-mimicking substance also known as BPA, in baby bottles after concluding that the industrial chemical could eventually lead to prostate and breast cancer.

Environmental Defence, a non-profit environmental organization, has spent five years leading the lobby campaign for the toxic designation.

"This is a really significant public health victory," the organization's executive director, Rick Smith said. "We're seeing a rapid and dramatic transformation of the children's product industry."

A Statistics Canada study released in August reported nearly all Canadians -- 91 per cent of those aged six to 79 -- have BPA in their urine, and that children and teenagers have higher levels of the estrogen-mimicking chemical than adults.

"Chemical corporations have a firm grasp on government policy decisions regarding food packaging," said Brian Webb, a toxicologist and consultant. "The EU's decision to ignore scientific findings are most likely influenced by organizations similar to the ACC which objected to Canada's listing of BPA as a toxin," he concluded.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) formally delayed Canada's listing of BPA as a toxin on July 15, 2009, when they filed their objection on unsubstantiated grounds which maintained BPA was safe. The government rejected the request on July 27, 2010, on the grounds the council did not "bring forth any new scientific data or information with respect to the nature and extent of the danger posed by bisphenol A."


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