California Ruling on BPA: Where Science Speaks Loudest

Recently, the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee (DARTIC) of the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) determined that bisphenol-A (BPA) should not be listed under California’s Proposition 65 (Prop 65).  The panel consisted of independent, scientific experts and physicians who were selected by the state of California to make a recommendation based on the current scientific data available to them.  Of the data and testimony that were reviewed by the panel, none offered clear evidence of risk to human health. 

BPA is used to develop polycarbonate plastics which are commonly used for water bottles.  It is also used as an epoxy resin coating for metal can liners.  Both are critical in developing safe food packaging and BPA increases the containers’ strength and packaging integrity.  BPA is used as a safety component to modern food production.  For example, without BPA, metal cans would corrode and canned foods would not last as long due to spoilage or pathogen growth. 

BPA continues to be a controversial subject in the U.S.  Several states such as Minnesota and Connecticut have restricted the use of BPA for certain populations.  The media in recent years have reported perceived risks but there has been less coverage on the large body of scientific evidence to support its safe use.  Health Canada, which initiated an aggressive campaign to reduce exposure to infants and newborns, recently concluded in its assessments of baby food, powdered infant formula and bottled water, that the current exposure levels are “not expected to pose a health risk to the general population including infants and newborns.”

California concluded that there is no clear evidence that BPA is a risk to human health. The BPA issue can be used as a case study in risk communication as well as an example where credible science must be weighed against public perception when it comes to food safety.