Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
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Bisphenol A (BPA) is extensively used in the synthesis of plastics and resins, including for baby bottles

Bisphenol A (BPA) is extensively used in the synthesis of plastics and resins, including for baby bottles© Carin (Carin Araujo) - stock.xchng

Bisphenol A and baby bottles: challenges and perspectives


Bisphenol A (BPA) is extensively used in the synthesis of plastics and resins, implying a widespread consumer exposure through various products coming in contact with food, such as baby bottles or food cans. Despite several risk assessment studies performed over the last ten years by different regulatory bodies worldwide, there is so far no agreement about the impact of BPA on human health. The review report "Bisphenol A and baby bottles: challenges and perspectives", published by the JRC Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP), provides an overview of the issues at the base of the on-going debate and highlights some areas of uncertainty, which may be the subject of future investigations.

Numerous toxicity studies performed all over the world in compliance with internationally accepted guidelines and good laboratory practice, using oral administration, large groups of animals and several dose groups, have highlighted negative effects of BPA at dose levels from 50 milligrams of BPA per 1 kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg bw/day). Because this figure is well above the estimated human exposure levels of 0.6-13 micrograms per 1 kilo of body weight per day (μg/kg bw/day), risk assessors and managers have considered the margin of safety sufficient. However, a large number of research studies, often using smaller numbers of animals, fewer or single dose groups, and including non-oral routes of administration, have described negative effects of BPA use at very low dose levels, in the range of micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day use. Although the limitations of such low dose studies make it difficult to determine their actual significance to human health risk assessment, this has spurred concern regarding the possible adverse health effects of BPA.

Against this background, the JRC's IHCP has recently reviewed the results of various risk assessment studies carried out on BPA, which are presented in this report. The authors note that most of the current uncertainties regarding human health risks of BPA derive from diverging opinions on the reliability of studies carried out with different methodologies. On this base, they observe that future toxicological studies aimed at reducing these uncertainties will have a higher probability of success if they are agreed preliminarily in a context of international collaboration between academic laboratories and governmental bodies, and if they are carried out under the supervision of an international panel of independent experts.

Considering that some BPA-containing products (particularly polycarbonate baby bottles) are already being banned in some countries and/or are being progressively and voluntarily phased out by the industry, the authors note that it is likewise important to assess the safety of BPA-free substitute materials.