The controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) may be everywhere, but it’s probably not hurting anyone, European regulators said Wednesday.
The European Food Safety Authority’s review of BPA shows that people in general – from babies to the elderly – are not getting enough BPA in their systems to harm their health. But it says more research is needed it some areas, such as exposure from cash register receipts.
The conclusions are similar to what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found.
“There is no health concern for any age group from dietary exposure or from aggregated exposure,” the EFSA said in its report.
“There is no health concern for any age group from dietary exposure or from aggregated exposure."
Numerous studies show high doses of BPA can cause a range of health effects in lab animals, including birth defects. And some studies have shown people with high levels of BPA might be at risk of some birth defects and perhaps some heart disease and developmental disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
But it’s not clear if the BPA is a direct cause or if it’s just a bystander. People get BPA from canned foods, mostly, and other processed foods so there might be something else going on.
“Canned food and non-canned meat and meat products are the two main dietary contributors to external BPA exposure in the large majority of countries and age classes,” the EFSA said.
Everyone appears to be getting some BPA. It’s used widely in plastics, to help firm up plastic bottles and containers and in the linings of canned foods to keep them fresh, although many manufacturers have tried to phase them out because of consumer demand.
Babies are getting the highest doses, probably because they are so small, the EFSA said. But even babies are not getting enough BPA to harm them, the report concludes. And while pregnant women also get BPA, there isn’t evidence pointing to effects on unborn children, at least not yet.
“The evidence is not sufficient to infer a causal link between BPA exposure and reproductive effects in humans,” it said.
“The evidence is not sufficient to infer a causal link between BPA exposure and reproductive effects in humans."
Also unclear is how much BPA people are getting from non-food sources, the EFSA said.
“The non-dietary sources considered for this assessment were thermal paper, indoor/outdoor air (including air-borne dust), dust, toys and articles which may be mouthed, and cosmetics,” the report said.
“Thermal paper was the second largest source of external exposure in all population groups above three years of age.” Thermal paper is most commonly used in cash register receipts.
In the U.S. BPA has been removed from many toys, baby bottles and other items that might affect small children. Food processors say it’s not clear what else they might use to keep canned food fresh.