OTTAWA — Taking any public health measures to ban or control bisphenol A — as Canada recently did — is premature since evidence of its alleged health risks is not strong enough, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
An international panel of 30 experts including Canadians reviewed the latest studies on the impact of the chemical, also known as BPA, which is frequently used in food containers and packages. The experts found that BPA, which has been linked to serious health problems, is mostly eliminated through urine and doesn’t accumulate in the body.
Circulating levels of BPA in the human body were found to be very low, “indicating that BPA is not accumulated in the body and is rapidly eliminated through urine,” WHO said in a statement.
Recent experiments have made a connection between low levels of BPA in the body and such adverse health effects as prostate and breast cancer.
“It is difficult to interpret the relevance of these studies in the light of current knowledge of this compound,” the statement read. “Until these associations can be confirmed, initiation of public health measures would be premature.”
Canada added BPA to the national list of toxic substances in October, about two years after becoming the first country in the world to ban BPA in baby bottles. The ban came after concluding that the estrogen-mimicking substance could eventually lead to health problems.
The industrial chemical is used primarily in producing polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins for food containers, water bottles and protective linings for canned food and beverages.
Environmental Defence, a non-profit environmental organization, had spent five years leading the lobby campaign for the toxic designation. And they say Canada should continue on its path to rid all products of BPA, despite the report from WHO.
“We already knew that BPA passes through the body,” the organization’s executive director Rick Smith said. “But the fact that studies still show it present in nine out of 10 people means that it is getting in just as fast, and doing damage while it is there. We therefore must remove BPA from ubiquitous items such as tin can linings so that we are not marinating in the stuff.”
The panel of experts also confirmed a widely held belief that food is “by far” the main source of BPA. The chemical leaches into food from its plastic or metal packaging, the statement said.
Other less important sources of BPA are house dust, soil or toys, dental treatments and thermal papers, such as cash register receipts, the report said.
Several countries have followed Canada’s lead since Ottawa announced the ban on baby bottles containing BPA; bills addressing the chemical having been introduced in U.S. Congress, Belgium and the United Kingdom, Smith said.
The meeting of international experts was organized by WHO jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with the support of the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada, the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Canada’s curbs on BPA premature, says WHO panel