U.S. consumers are exposed to more than 5,000 times more bisphenol-A (BPA) than the EU considers safe, and that has prompted environmental groups to petition the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rescind its approvals for the chemical commonly used in food packaging.
The petition, filed on January 27, 2022, came in response to a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessment of BPA, which determined that “there is a health concern from dietary BPA exposure for all age groups.”
“The FDA has an obligation to protect us from toxic chemicals that can come in contact with our food,” petition co-author Maricel Maffini said, as The Guardian reported. “These new findings should be a wakeup call to the FDA and all of us that our health is in jeopardy unless we take swift action to limit the amount of BPA that can come into contact with our food.”
BPA is commonly used to make plastic, and was first approved by the FDA in the early 1960s, according to Verywell Health. It was last deemed safe by the FDA in 2008, but health experts have long had concerns about the chemical.
“Exposure to BPAs has been shown to interfere with how certain hormones function, such as estrogen, testosterone, thyroid, and others,” family physician Dr. Kristamarie Collman told Verywell Health. “Additionally, they have been associated with fertility issues, cancer, and even cardiovascular disease.”
The new assessment from the EFSA calculated a new safety limit for BPA of 0.04 nanograms per kilogram of body weight per day (ng/kg bw/day), the petitioners wrote. According to the FDA’s own calculations, the average U.S. resident over the age of two consumes 200 ng/kg bw/day, or more than 5,000 times the new safety limit.
“Without a doubt, these values constitute a high health risk and support the conclusion that uses of BPA are not safe,” the petitioners wrote.
The petition was organized by a coalition of health experts and environmental groups led by the Environmental Defense Fund, according to The Guardian. The FDA now has 180 days to respond.
BPA is commonly used as lining in metal cans or as hard, clear polycarbonate plastic used for water bottles or food containers. EDF has had some success with FDA petitions in recent years, including one to ban long-chain PFAS in food packaging and another to ban seven carcinogenic food flavors. However, while the agency decides, there are things you can do to protect yourself, Verywell Health noted.
- Limiting exposure to plastic-packaged or canned foods.
- Being aware that products marked BPA-free could still contain BPS (bisphenol S), a common substitute.
- Steering clear of plastic containers that are heated in the microwave.
- Finding out if your preferred brands have banned BPA and its substitutes.
“Until more information is known, it’s important to take a precautionary approach by limiting exposure to these chemicals, especially when preparing or making certain foods,” Collman told Verywell Health.