BPA, or Bisphenol-A, is a polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin building block that is used globally as the primary component in plastic water bottles. Polycarbonate is a type of hard, clear plastic that is used in many other plastic-based products, including food and serving containers and baby bottles. In addition, the epoxy resins in BPA are used to make protective linings for a substantial portion of the canned food and carbonated beverage products available globally.
In response to recent news reports, however, the concern over BPA has consumers scurrying to dispose of plastic water bottles that contain the substance. Both chemists and plastic experts are contemplating this odd situation. What has prompted consumers to so quickly draw conclusions around media reports on plastic water bottles and other canned food products that have been safely used for decades?
The concern over Bisphenol-A began primarily because it was suggested that the chemical could migrate or break down over time; however, both privately funded studies and governmental agencies have reported that this should be no cause for alarm. Despite BPA being a major component in plastic water bottles for over four decades, consumers are now seeing products containing BPA in a bad light based on a segment that aired on The Today Show in April. Though dubbed a Consumer Alert, the segment did nothing more than worry consumers about the safety of the product.
While it's likely this concern will soon subside once the scientific review process catches up to early media stories, BPA could still receive a bad reputation. Fortunately, the safety of Bisphenol-A is supported by research from many credible sources, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the American Chemistry Council. In an effort to eradicate the current notion that Bisphenol-A is harmful, these agencies are working overtime to disseminate the extensive research, provide documented studies into the public media arena, and on the FDA website. In addition to posting information on its website, the FDA has addressed these concerns during the Commissioner's weekly update and has provided Congressional testimony to dispel unfounded concerns raised by early media interpretations of the science.
What is BPA?
BPA is the chemical of choice for plastic water bottles and containers because it is durable, lightweight, and shatter-resistant. BPA is continuously researched and is one of the most studied substances today. In addition to the EPA, FDA, and American Chemistry Council, the substance is being thoroughly tested by global agencies, including the European Food Safety Authority, the Canadian Ministry of Health, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment, and prominent Dutch and Norwegian research organizations. Moreover, the American Plastics Council routinely checks for traces of BPA in plastic water bottles.
Despite reports that polycarbonate bottles are not safe to use in the microwave, this has been proven untrue, and most scientists report the only thing to worry about is the possible uneven heating of food or drinks. In 2008, the well-known Dutch research organization, TNO, began testing the myth that Bisphenol-A migrates into food or drink when heated in the microwave. The study tested baby bottles from eighteen different brands by simulating a typical heating routine for warming milk. The researchers filled the bottles with water, placed them in the microwave for one minute, and then allowed them to cool. They repeated the procedure twice and then tested for Bisphenol-A in the water. No traces were detected, and the findings were published in a study.
What Should I Know about BPA?
Recently, the European Food Safety Authority established a Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for plastic water bottles and products made from Bisphenol-A. It concluded that the ingestion of BPA on a daily basis was safe over a lifetime, and the highest possible transient level of BPA that could occur was less than 1%. Research indicates that to exceed the level set as safe by the Environmental Protection Agency, an adult human would have to ingest about 1,300 pounds of food and drink that has come in contact with Bisphenol-A daily for an entire lifetime.
Other concerns regarding the safety of BPA were the myths of the effects it might have on human reproduction and development. In April 2008, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) reported in its draft brief that there is no proof that BPA is harmful to human reproduction and development. In response to the draft brief, Dr. Steven Hentges, a Bisphenol-A expert with the American Chemistry Council, issued a statement that supported NTP's findings, stating that "in light of extensive studies, adverse effects on reproduction and development would be non-existent."
Your Plastic Water Bottles Are Safe
Even though scientific support is in abundance, consumers are still wary of using plastic water bottles and other materials made from Bisphenol-A. Polycarbonate bottles have been proven safe, but now it has been left up to the consumer to read the extensive reports on the subject. Exposure to BPA through plastic water bottles and containers is minute, and this polycarbonate plastic additive will continue to be used to make long-lasting, reusable bottled water products, food containers, and baby bottles that are consistently proven to be safe.