The complexity and technical nature of chemicals make it easy for misinformation to arise and spread. Misinformation about bisphenol A (BPA) can be easily perpetuated because emotional arguments are often more easy to comprehend and transmit than factual statements based on science.
The following page seeks to present some of the common misconceptions and provide the actual facts based on science to increase understanding of BPA.
Myth: "Hundreds of studies prove that BPA is harmful – but they are ignored"
It is not the quantity, but the quality and validity of scientific studies that is of importance for regulatory safety assessments. During the past 15 years, the European authorities carried out several risk assessments of BPA, each time including all the scientific evidence that appeared since their previous assessment, altogether covering thousands of studies, also including all the small or exploratory studies many of which claim to see an effect. However, the authorities noted several methodological, statistical or other shortcomings in many of these studies, and they are thus often not taken into account for regulatory risk assessment.
Myth: "Bisphenol A is harmful to humans at low doses"
Studies supporting the low dose theory have repeatedly been judged by independent regulators as unreliable for use in human risk assessment. None of the studies claiming such effects could be reproduced by other scientist teams. Several comprehensive studies that also investigated the question of potential effects of very small levels of BPA on the metabolism and looked at several generations, did not find any such effect. However, numerous studies show that the level of migration of BPA into food and drink that was in contact with BPA-based materials, if any, is far below any safety-based standards set by government bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and such exposure poses no known health risk.
In January 2015, „Based on scientific criteria EFSA’s experts concluded that the available data do not provide evidence that BPA results in non-monotonic dose-response relationships [i.e. low-dose effects] for the health effects considered.“ . This is supported by the recent conclusion of EFSA based on a comprehensive evaluation of the scientific evidence for non-monotonic dose-response of substances for human risk assessment undertaken by the four national authorities of France (ANSES), The Netherlands (RIVM), Austria (AGES) and Sweden (Karolinska Institutet), and published in May 2016: „…..NMDR as a common phenomenon is so far not supported for substances in the area of food safety.”
Myth: "Bisphenol A is an endocrine or hormone disruptor"
In its June 2016 communication, the EU Commission proposed to base the criteria to identify endocrine disruptors on the broadly accepted WHO/IPCS definition, and specified how this identification should be carried out: “by making use of all relevant ecientific evidence, using a weight of an evidence –based approach and applying a robust systematic review.” For Bisphenol A, a comprehensive scientific evaluation following these science-based principles has already been conducted: In its evaluation on BPA published in 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reviewed all available scientific studies on BPA in a systematic approach, including the literature on potential endocrine-related effects of BPA. In applying a weight-of-scientific evidence approach the EFSA expert panel concluded that “based on the WHO criteria, it is not possible to conclude that BPA is an endocrine disruptor”. Read more about this topic.
Myth: "BPA accumulates in the human body"
Several studies on human volunteers have shown that the very small amount of BPA that may be ingested by a person during normal daily activities is efficiently converted into biologically inactive metabolites, which are eliminated from the human body within a day. BPA does not accumulate in the human body.
Myth: "There is a wealth of studies that proves bisphenol A is dangerous"
There are many studies that claim to see effects and/or interpret ”danger“. However, independent regulators across the world, by looking at the whole set of available science on BPA, using a so-called „weight-of-evidence approach, have consistently concluded that bisphenol A (BPA) is safe for its intended uses and at the very low levels of realistic exposure. There are key criteria on study quality related to methodology, analysis, evaluation or reproducibility that are applied by authorities when evaluating scientific evidence. Authorities must always base their decisions on validated studies with assured quality. Read more about the European authorities' safety assessments.
Myth: "Bisphenol A causes cancer"
There is no scientific evidence that proves that bisphenol A (BPA) causes cancer, nor that it poses any risk to human health, at realistic levels of exposure. Claims that BPA is linked to cancer, birth defects, genetic effects, or infertility are not supported by robust research studies that have investigated this question. The results of related exploratory studies could not be reproduced by other scientific teams and they do not provide a consistent picture. Governmental assessments have confirmed that human exposure to BPA is extremely low. When exposed through diet, humans rapidly metabolise and eliminate BPA within a day.
In its recent comprehensive re-evaluation of the consumer safety of BPA published in January 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels. This evaluation comprises a thorough assessment of all available data, including studies on alleged carcinogenic effects of BPA.
Myth: "Bisphenol A leads to obesity in children"
There is no proven link between bisphenol A (BPA) and childhood obesity. Body weight is a regularly measured parameter in each toxicological study. None of the studies conducted according to internationally accepted quality guidelines showed effects on body weight at dose levels relevant to consumers. Media reports that obesity might be an effect of BPA exposure are based on a small number of studies with a number of limitations (e.g., small samples, limited number of dose levels, using an inappropriate route of exposure). Recent scientific reviews by authorities such as European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Center for Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR), Health Canada and other scientific bodies were consistent in the conclusion that there is no evidence that BPA exposure causes obesity.
Myth: "Bisphenol A causes birth defects, genetic effects, and infertility"
There is no scientific evidence that proves that bisphenol A (BPA) causes birth defects, genetic effects, and infertility or indeed that it poses any risk to consumers at realistic levels of exposure. Such claims are not supported by any validated scientific research. There are numerous assessments by authorities around the world that confirm that human exposure to BPA is very low, and that humans will rapidly metabolise and excrete BPA.
Myth: "Polycarbonate plastic food containers or epoxy coated cans leach high levels of bisphenol A into your food"
During the production of polycarbonate plastic or epoxy resins, the BPA molecules are firmly bound, interlinked with each other and incorporated into the polymeric structure of the plastic itself. Like with any other material, there is some potential for extremely small amounts of BPA to migrate. However, numerous studies show that the level of migration is far below any safety-based standards set by government bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and such exposure poses no known health risk.
In its recent safety assessment of BPA published January 2015, EFSA applied a comprehensive weight-of-evidence approach to all relevant studies on BPA, covering exposure from food sources along with exposure from a range of other potential sources, and considering all age groups of the population, „The overall conclusion [of EFSA] is that BPA poses no risk to human health from foodstuffs because current levels of exposure are well below the t-TDI of 4 μg/kg of bw/day. This also applies to pregnant women and to the elderly.” In fact, after exposure to BPA the human body rapidly metabolises and eliminates the substance from the body via the urine – this is also true for newborns and small children.
Myth: "BPA exposure from cash receipts can pose health risks"
Cash receipts made from thermal paper can contain low levels of bisphenol A (BPA). A study about ‘Transfer of bisphenol A from thermal printer paper to the skin,' (Biedermann, Tschudin & Grob, 2010) shows that while low levels of BPA can transfer from thermal paper to skin, those levels are well below government-set safe intake levels, even under the worst-case conditions included in the study. As it penetrates through the skin BPA is effectively converted into a biologically inactive metabolite, which is then quickly eliminated from the body. ECHA´s Risk Assessment Committee RAC evaluated the use of BPA in thermal paper. In its June 2015 opinion the Committee stated unequivocally: "Significantly, RAC did not identify a risk for consumers", thus being consistent with the EFSA opinion on BPA (January 2015) confirming the safety of these applications for consumers. At the same time, RAC proposed that the use of BPA in thermal paper for cashiers handling point of sale tickets and cash slips should be restricted.
Myth: "Bisphenol A is used as a plasticiser in plastics"
Bisphenol A (BPA) is not used as a plasticiser in plastics; it is an intermediate used in the manufacture of either polycarbonate plastic or epoxy resins. More than 99% of BPA is converted into polymers such as polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Only a very small amount portion of all the produced BPA that is produced is used as an essential antioxidant in soft PVC plastics or as a developing agent for thermal paper.
Myth: "Bisphenol A is used as an additive in plastics"
Bisphenol A (BPA) is not added to polycarbonate plastic or epoxy resins, but is the intermediate which, through polymerisation, is transformed to these materials. After polymerisation BPA is firmly bound into the material. More than 99% of BPA is converted into polymers such as polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins. Without BPA, one would not be able to produce polycarbonate or epoxy resin with their specific material characteristics.
Myth: "Polycarbonate debris decomposes in the sea"
Polycarbonate is not used as a one-way packaging material. In fact, polycarbonate products are largely reused and recycled. For example, large 5 gallon water containers are made from polycarbonate. These water bottles are typically refilled up to 40 times before being mechanically recycled. Polycarbonate is therefore not a material that would, under normal use and applying responsible waste recovery schemes, end up as debris in the sea. In fact, the efficient nature of polycarbonate in many cases helps preserve our resources. Polycarbonate is the material used to make CDs and DVDs, two products that have revolutionaised data storage and enabled enormous improvements in resource efficiency as a result.
Myth: "Basically, any alternative is better than Bisphenol A- based material in food contact"
This suggestion, which is sometimes referenced in poorly researched media articles, is a very dangerous one. It wrongly indicates that there are equally well-suited, well-tested, well-understood and technically viable alternatives to just replace one material with another. This is not the case. Extensive toxicological safety studies have to be done, independent authorities have to assess, producers and food companies have to test the behaviour of the material in their processes, in the packaging, over a realistic period of product life, and under varying use scenarios. As the Swiss Health authority stated: "A ban on BPA would inevitably cause manufactures of packaging and consumer products (food contact materials) to have to switch to other substances, the toxicity of which is less well known. This would mean a well characterized risk would be replaced with a conspicuously unpredictable risk.”
Myth: "Certain countries have banned BPA"
As a substance, Bisphenol A is not banned anywhere in the world. In fact, extensive scientific testing and governmental reviews worldwide have concluded that human exposure to BPA is very low and within the safe limits set by government authorities. Therefore, there is no regulatory or science-based reason to stop using a safe product that provides significant benefits to the consumer. However, in applying a very broad interpretation of the precautionary principle BPA-based polycarbonate baby bottles are no longer permitted in Europe since June 2011. Denmark, Belgium and Canada decided to restrict the use of BPA-based material in food contact products for small children (ages 0-3), comparable decisions have been taken in some states, counties or cities in the US. Since January 2015, in France the use of BPA in food contact materials in banned. These decisions are driven by reasons other than sound science. They follow the intention to reduce as much as possible the BPA-exposure of babies and small children.
Myth: "The US FDA has changed its opinion on BPA"
The U.S. federal government research provides strong support for BPA safety. In the last several years, federal government scientists conducted in-depth studies to answer key questions and clarify uncertainties about the safety of BPA. To date, more than 20 of these studies have been published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Taken together, the results of these studies provide strong support for the safety of BPA. Based on these results, along with results from other studies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently answered the question “Is BPA safe?” with a clear answer – “Yes.” This is – in summary – because consumer exposure to BPA is extremely low, and BPA is rapidly eliminated from the body. Thus, FDA concludes there is no risk of health effects at typical consumer exposure levels.
Myth: "The precautionary principle must be applied to any presumed risk"
The idea of the precautionary principle is to have a concept to regulate a substance if there is no, or not sufficient scientific data available to properly assess a risk, or if the uncertainty in its assessment is regarded as too big. However, for BPA a large amount of scientific data is available. The regulatory experts have a comprehensive understanding of the substance, and the risk assessments are based on a large data base. Therefore the risk associated with BPA has been extensively and thoroughly assessed.
Myth: "Bisphenol A should be banned"
There is no scientific justification for banning bisphenol A (BPA), as numerous studies and regulatory assessments have shown that BPA and BPA-based products pose no risk to human health or the environment. Moreover, banning would unnecessarily remove thousands of crucial everyday products from our lives - from CDs and unbreakable eyeglasses to car bumpers and hospital respirators - and would have a severe social and economic impact. Read more about BPA applications in our everyday lives.