US federal authorities must show more urgency in dealing with bisphenol A (BPA) and begin protecting the public from hazards posed by the chemical, according to a new report from a group of academics.
In a blunt call for action, the Center for Progressive Reform (CPR) has urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to impose tougher regulations and speed up the pace of reform to cut consumer exposure to the chemical.
The body of regulatory scholars called on the three major agencies that deal with scrutiny of the controversial substance to accept that it poses a risk at low doses, force industry to provide more evidence of its safety in their products and implement a long-term strategy that could include a partial or full ban of BPA in food contact materials.
BPA is a chemical widely found in food packaging, including epoxy linings in cans, reusable bottles as well as plastic food and beverage containers. There is increasing concern that exposure to the endocrine disrupting substance poses serious human health risks such as cancer, reproductive defects and brain development abnormalities.
Food safety authorities in the US, Europe and Australasia have all said, however, that its continued use at current levels is safe but agreed that exposure to it by vulnerable groups such as young children and pregnant women should be reduced.
The CPR authors believe that the weight of evidence has not only demonstrated BPA is a risk, but poses a hazard at low doses.
It has called on US regulators to abandon the universal belief that the probability of risk increases with dose levels. Instead they are urged to accept that BPA bucks the dose trend and can, in some cases, be more dangerous at lower levels. This change of approach would mean overhauling US federal Redbook Protocols, said the scholars.
The 33-page report advocates a two-pronged approach as it outlines a series of short and long-term measures the FDA, EPA and OSHA should adopt to tackle BPA exposure.
The FDA should continue and accelerate its research and data collection efforts which should lead to it issuing new guidance on BPA-specific testing and data submission requirements.
New guidelines on BPA-free labeling need to be introduced – including the stipulation that any product that uses another endocrine disruptor in place of BPA ( such as bisphenol-S) be considered a labelling breach.
The agency should also impose new guidance for Food Contact Substance Notification that any claims for BPA-containing products aimed at vulnerable groups would likely be rejected.
Food contact approvals made since 2002 for BPA products should be reversed, and new applications denied “with the aim of imposing new safety testing, exposure and use standards,” said the White Paper.
Finally it petitions the FDA to issue new BPA regulations outlining specific uses and safety parameters – such as outlawing specific uses or mandating detailed toxicity and exposure testing data.
More urgency needed
The EPA also has an important role to play, firstly by updating its IRIS database to “accurately reflect the currently known low-dose exposure risks”, said the report.
The body should also use the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to gather exposure and use information with a view to “aggressively pursue development of its proposed BPA Test Rule and Chemicals od Concern list”.
The paper calls on the OSHA to carry out more workplace studies, develop a better database and implement new Hazard Communication standards. The influx of data should lead to the establishment of a Permissable Exposure Limit for BPA.
“We know this chemical is entering our bodies and disrupting our endocrine systems, but the federal government hasn’t yet shown enough urgency in dealing with it,” said report co-author Noah Sachs, Associate Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law. “The good news is FDA, EPA, and OSHA have the authority to start warning the public about BPA and move toward reducing our exposure to it. It’s important to address health threats like BPA carefully – but without delay.”