The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined that current levels of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) pose no health risk to any population group, including pregnant women, the elderly, unborn children, infants, and adolescents. BPA is a chemical compound used in some polycarbonate plastic food contact materials, including reusable plastic tableware, metal can coatings, thermal paper used in cash register receipts, toys, water bottles, and cosmetics.
Animal studies have shown that very high exposure to BPA—hundreds of times above the tolerable daily intake or TDI—can have adverse effects on the kidney and liver. EFSA has now lowered the TDI from 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day to four micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day. EFSA’s highest estimates for dietary and non-dietary exposure to BPA, however, are three to five times lower than the new TDI.
Uncertainties about the potential health effects of BPA on the mammary gland, reproductive, metabolic, neurobehavioral, and immune systems were factored into the calculations of TDI, according to EFSA. The current TDI is temporary and may be reconsidered when the results of long-term research by the U.S. National Toxicology Program are available for evaluation in two to three years.
The U.S. National Toxicology Program, in partnership with the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research, has been studying the health effects of BPA since September 2008. Like EFSA, the ongoing U.S. research has found no evidence to date of BPA toxicity at low does, including doses above human exposure levels. In the fall of 2014, the FDA completed a four-year review of more than 300 scientific studies about the health effects of BPA. The review did not yield any information that would prompt a revision of the agency’s safety assessment of BPA in food packaging.
EFSA last assessed dietary exposure to BPA between 2006 and 2011. This new assessment is based on “more and better data,” according to Dr. Trine Husøy, a member of EFSA’s expert panel dealing with food contact materials and chair of the BPA working group. As a result of the data, “we now know that dietary exposure is four to 15 times lower than previously estimated by EFSA, depending on the age group,” she says.
There is not much supporting data on BPA exposure from non-dietary sources, such as thermal paper and cosmetics, so uncertainty remains about exposure estimates from those sources. EFSA used a methodology designed to consider those uncertainties and to also factor them into its risk assessment, Dr. Husøy says.
Holliman is a veteran journalist with extensive experience covering a variety of industries. Reach her at [email protected].