Pregnancy group call for BPA labels over bottle fears

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bpa, Bisphenol a, Infant

The use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in bottles and other food packaging
continues to stir controversy, with calls this week from a UK-based
pregnancy charity for mandatory labelling of the chemical when
present in packs.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) says that a clear labelling system, particularly on infant feeding bottles, should be introduced over fears that the chemical can leak into beverages and food. Some recent animal studies have indicated that high levels of BPA could be carcinogenic. The charity is the latest organisation to raise concerns over potential safety hazards of using the chemical, despite current European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) policy permitting a maximum daily intake of 0.05 milligram/kg body weight. The growing safety concerns could yet see the goalposts for European packaging companies that use BPA shifting when manufacturing polycarbonates for water bottles, canned soups, drinks and baby food bottles. Bisphenol A ​ BPA is a chemical used in certain packaging materials such as the rigid plastic polycarbonate. It is also used in epoxy-phenolic resins for internal protective linings for cans and metal lids, as well as in coatings for storage tanks. Risk awareness​ Although conceding that there is as yet no conclusive proof linking health risks to allowed BPA levels, NCT chief executive Belinda Phipps says that parents need to be aware of the potential risk posed to their children from these products. "As a first step, it is important that bottles and other items that might reach a baby's mouth, are labelled in a standard and easy to understand way,"​ she stated. "This will help to remove the risk of Bisphenol A contamination."​ The NCT stressed particular concern over the sale of second hand bottles, which it claims are more likely to leak the chemical through damages or scratching to the packaging. EFSA view ​ While not being drawn on its exact intentions for a possible policy change, EFSA last week said it may review its previous advice on safe levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging and provide updates on its deliberations. However, the risk assessor said that it would first wait on the findings of ongoing assessments in Canada and the US, before making any new decision. In January 2007, EFSA published its own risk assessment on BPA, in which it established a full tolerable daily intake of 0.05 milligram/kg body weight. However, some recent research has focused on whether even this level is advisable. Canadian assessment​ The Canadian government announced in mid April that it had completed a draft risk assessment of BPA in consultation with industry and other stakeholders and, starting 19 April 2008, initiated a 60 day public consultation on whether to ban the importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles - as well as several other possibilities. Government minister Clement said: "With this action,Canadawill be the first country in the world to take such action to limit exposure to bisphenol A​". Health Canada's screening assessment primarily focused on the impact of BPA on newborns and infants up to 18 months of age, however, health risks for all ages were considered. It was concluded that early development is sensitive to the effects of BPA and that the main source of exposure for newborns and infants is through the use of polycarbonate baby bottles when exposed to higher temperatures and the migration of BPA from cans into infant formula. The scientists determined that BPA expose to newborns and infants is below levels that may pose a risk, however, the government is proposing the above measures as a precaution. The draft assessment confirmed that most Canadians need not be concerned, since adverse health affects of BPA generally occur at levels higher than those to which Canadians are exposed. Minister Clement said that Canadians can continue to use water bottles containing BPA and the government will provide guidance. However, Environment Canada scientists also found that at low levels BPA can harm fish and aquatic organisms. Other proposals aside from a full-on ban include to develop migration targets for BPA in infant formula cans; to work with industry to develop alternative food packaging and develop a code of practice; and to list BPA under Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Developments in the US​ Pressure is growing in the FDA to set new restrictions on the use of BPA in food packaging following a report from the National Toxicology Program which concluded that there was "some concern for neural and behavioural effects in foetuses, infants and children at current human exposures to BPA​. The NTP also said that there was evidence that BPA could induce cancer in humans at current exposure levels, although more research was needed. Last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest warned pregnant women to reduce their exposure to packaging containing BPA to avoid passing the chemical to their unborn children.

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