Paul Taylor
Globe and Mail
In October, the federal government formally declared that bisphenol A is toxic to both the environment and human health, making Canada the first country to take such action against the controversial chemical that is suspected of disrupting the hormonal systems of people and animals.
 
Ottawa’s mixed signals seemed to reflect a half-hearted commitment to public health. But, to be sure, its stand on BPA is a significant advance.
 
BPA is widely used for making hard plastics and food packaging – including the liners of most tin cans. Some scientists have warned that BPA could interfere with normal biological processes because its chemical structure resembles estrogen, a primary female hormone. And they’ve expressed concern that it can leach into food from packaging.
 
Studies have linked the gender-bending chemical to certain cancers, developmental disorders and other ailments.
 
By declaring the substance toxic, Ottawa immediately gains more power to implement controls on the material without having to pass legislation. Two years ago, it banned BPA in baby-feeding bottles and other infant products. Health advocates are now urging the government to take similar action on goods used by the general population.
 
The American Chemistry Council, based in Arlington, Va., campaigned against the toxic designation, disputing the validity of the studies.
 
SIDEBAR
“I think the federal government deserves credit for holding the line… The chemical industry is an incredibly aggressive lobbying force.” — Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence