Certain natural and man-made substances can exhibit hormone-like properties. The natural ones of these substances are called "phyto-estrogens", the man-made ones are generally called "endocrine disruptors“, though not all of them fulfil the accepted definition of endocrine disruptors.
In June 2016, the European Commission presented criteria for the identification of Endocrine Disruptors. The Commission proposed to base the criteria on the broadly accepted WHO/IPCS definition, and also 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.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines an Endocrine Disruptor as a substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub) populations. In other words: for a substance to be identified as an Endocrine Disruptor requires an Endocrine mode of action, an adverse effect, and a causal relationship between the two.
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”.
Also the result of the EU Commission´s screening excercise supports existing comprehensive evaluations that found no conclusive evidence of endocrine disrupting effects for BPA with respect to human health: In each of the investigated options based on the WHO-criteria (options 2,3,4), as a result from the screening, BPA is not classified as an ED with regard to human health.
BPA does not show any reproducible evidence of adverse effects as a result of hormone-like properties. Indeed, an endocrine disruptor is an endocrine active substance that will produce negative health effects in human. Like many naturally-occurring substances and everyday foodstuffs, BPA shows very weak, estrogen-like activity, but only at extremely high levels to which humans realistically can never be exposed to. This measurable estrogen-like activity is still significantly lower than that of natural phyto-estrogens, such as soy beans or carrots and will therefore not lead to any adverse effect in humans.
Scare stories about avoiding polycarbonate plastic or epoxy resins for fear of adverse health effects due to BPA continue to be published. However, none of these adverse health claims have been proven to be relevant for human health. The weight of scientific evidence regarding BPA is clear: Consumers may only be exposed to very low levels of BPA and there is no risk to humans, wildlife or the environment from products made from BPA-based materials in their intended uses.
Several robust multigenerational animal studies have shown that reproduction and development are not affected at realistic dose levels of BPA (compared to the extremely low levels of possible consumer exposure). These studies cover a wide variety of parameters able to detect disruptions of the hormone system.
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