TORONTO – Eating common canned foods is exposing North Americans to levels of bisphenol A (BPA) equal to levels shown to cause health problems in laboratory animals, according to a new study released today by Environmental Defence Canada and The National Workgroup for Safe Markets, a coalition of public health and environmental health groups in the United States (U.S.).
The study, No Silver Lining: An Investigation into Bisphenol A in Canned Foods, tested food from 50 cans, including organic canned food, from Canada and the U.S. for BPA contamination. Over 90% of the cans tested had detectable levels of BPA, some at higher levels than have been detected in previous studies.
Canada set an international precedent in 2008 with the federal government’s proposal to designate BPA as ‘toxic’, set reduction targets on the amount of it that can be found in infant formula, and ban it in baby bottles. To date, its prohibition in baby bottles is the sole measure to actually be in place.
“Getting BPA out of baby bottles was a great first step, but it’s not enough. As this study shows, canned food can be a source of BPA exposure for pregnant women, which is concerning given that fetuses are particularly vulnerable to the potential harmful health effects of BPA,” said Janelle Witzel, Program Manager, Environmental Defence.
The canned foods tested were brand name fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, soups, tomato products, sodas, and milks, which together represent “real-life” meal options for a wide range of North American families. The cans were purchased from retail stores and were chosen from report participants’ pantry shelves, and sent to an independent laboratory for testing. One can of DelMonte green beans had the highest levels of BPA ever found in canned food, at 1,140 parts per billion.
BPA is in the inside lining of most canned foods in North America, and in other polycarbonate plastic containers, such as reusable sports bottles. BPA has been found in the urine of over 90% of Americans by the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S., and in the cord blood of newborn babies. Exposure to low doses of BPA has been linked to illnesses, including breast and prostate cancer, behavioural problems, diabetes and heart disease, infertility, developmental and reproductive harm, and obesity, which raises the risk of early puberty, a known risk factor for breast cancer.
“Canada needs to immediately designate BPA as ‘toxic’ and ban it in all food and beverage can linings to ensure that Canadians are not unknowingly being exposed to it,” said Witzel. Banning BPA in all food and beverage containers is particularly important since BPA has the ability to cross the placenta resulting in the exposure of vulnerable fetuses. In humans, BPA levels in fetal fluid by the middle of pregnancy have been found to be five-fold higher than the women’s blood and follicular fluid.
No Silver Lining test results show there is no consistency in the amount of BPA in specific food brands or in types of food, which prevents consumers from being able to avoid BPA canned foods just by looking at a label. For example, two different cans of the same brand of peas with two separate ‘lot numbers’ were drastically different: one had six parts per billion of BPA, while the other had over 300 parts per billion of BPA. Organic canned food was also tested and found to contain BPA.
“The Canadian public is left to protect themselves from these unintended BPA exposure sources,” said Fe de Leon, researcher at the Canadian Environmental Law Association. “The study clearly demonstrates that continued use of BPA in food packaging will not guarantee protection to consumers’ health unless precautionary measures to eliminate BPA use in food packaging and other applications is required through government action.”
# # #
About Environmental Defence Canada (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research solutions. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, clean water and thriving ecosystems nationwide, and to bring a halt to Canada’s contribution to climate change.
About Canadian Environmental Law Association (www.cela.ca): CELA is a not-for-profit legal clinic established in 1970 to use existing laws to protect the environment and to advocate environmental law reforms. CELA provides legal services to individuals and organizations that could not afford legal representations. In addition, CELA undertakes policy and law reform activities which are focused on five program areas: access to environmental justice, water sustainability, land use planning, green energy and pollution and health.
The National Workgroup for Safe Markets is a coalition of U.S. public health and environmental NGOs including:
Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow
Breast Cancer Fund
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
Clean New York
Clean Water Action
Coalition for a Safety & Healthy Connecticut
Environmental Health Fund
Environmental Health Strategy Center
Learning Disabilities Association of America
Oregon Environmental Council
Washington Toxics Coalition
Women’s Voices for the Earth
– 30 –
For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell)
Fe de Leon, Canadian Environmental Law Association, (416) 960-2284 ext. 223; (416) 624-6758 (cell)