EPA to Assess Environmental Impact of Bisphenol-A

WASHINGTON, DC, March 29, 2010 (ENS) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced an action plan to address the potential effects of bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical used in the manufacture of many consumer and industrial products.

Bisphenol-A is used to make plastics clear and shatter-resistant, and is commonly found in water bottles, food containers, baby bottles, some dental fillings and the coatings for the inside of cans containing foods and beverages.

The EPA’s new plan focuses on the environmental impacts of BPA and will require testing related to environmental effects of the chemical. Under the plan announced today bisphenol-A could be added to EPA’s list of chemicals of concern.

In January 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it had some concerns about the potential human health impacts of bisphenol-A and it would study the potential effects and ways to reduce exposure to BPA in food packaging.

“We share FDA’s concern about the potential health impacts from BPA,” said Steve Owens, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances.

“Both EPA and FDA, and many other agencies are moving forward to fully assess the environmental and health impacts to ensure that the full range of BPA’s possible impacts are examined,” he said.

Releases of bisphenol-A to the environment exceed one million pounds per year, Owens said.

Bisphenol-A has caused reproductive and developmental effects in animal studies and may also affect the endocrine system, he said.

Most clear plastic bottles contain bisphenol-A although non-toxic bottles are becoming available. (Photo by Fiona Galliver)

BPA mimics the hormone estrogen and recent studies have raised concerns about the hormonal impact the chemical can have on the prostate gland, mammary gland, and reproductive development of fetuses, infants, and children.

On May 8, 2009, Minnesota became the first state in the nation to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups after Governor Tim Pawlenty signed the legislation into law.

Later in May, Chicago City Council passed the nation’s first municipal ordinance to protect children’s health by eliminating bisphenol-A from baby bottles and toddler’s sippy cups sold in the city as of January 1, 2011.

In June, Connecticut became the first U..S state to ban bisphenol A from infant formula and baby food containers, as well from any reusable food or beverage container.

The EPA action plan would add BPA to the chemical concern list on the basis of potential environmental effects. The decision to list chemicals signals EPA’s concern about the risks that the listed chemicals may pose and the agency’s intention to address those risks.

Owens said the EPA will require information on concentrations of bisphenol-A in surface water, ground water, and drinking water to determine if BPA may be present at levels of potential concern.

Manufacturers will be required to provide test data to assist the agency in evaluating its possible impacts, including long-term effects on growth, reproduction, and development in aquatic organisms and wildlife.

Using EPA’s Design for the Environment program, the agency will look for ways to reduce unnecessary exposures, including assessing substitutes, while additional studies continue.

The agency will continue to evaluate the potential disproportionate impact on children and other sub-populations through exposure from non-food packaging uses.

Cal Dooley, president and CEO of the American Chemistry Council, an industry association, said, “It is important to recognize that EPA is not proposing any regulatory action regarding human health. In fact, HHS [Health and Human Services] and FDA recently reaffirmed that BPA has not been proven to cause harm to infants or adults, and other regulatory bodies around the world have determined that the science supports the safety of BPA.”

“We look forward to a productive exchange with EPA on this action plan, and working to modernize TSCA [Toxic Substances Control Act] in a way that allows EPA to better prioritize chemicals for review,” Dooley said.

BPA is one of the most thoroughly studied chemicals in commerce and comprehensive scientific assessments recently conducted in Europe and Japan have affirmed that BPA is not a risk to the environment at current low levels, Dooley said.

“Numerous studies have found that BPA rapidly biodegrades, does not bioaccumulate and, if detected at all, is present in the environment only at trace levels that do not cause harmful effects,” he said.

EPA is working closely with FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on research to better assess and evaluate the potential health consequences of BPA exposures, including health concerns from non-food packaging exposures that fall outside of the FDA’s reach but within EPA’s regulatory authority.

Based on what this new research shows, EPA will consider possible regulatory actions to address health impacts from these other exposures.

In December, EPA announced that it will, for the first time, use its authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act to list chemicals that may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. This shift in policy is part of Administrator Jackson’s approach of utilizing current authorities to the fullest extent possible, while continuing to encourage legislative reform of TSCA, which has not been updated since 1976.

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