Scientific Assessment of Bisphenol A in Canada Coming Up in 2007
December 19, 2006
The Canadian government recently announced details of a new chemicals management plan, including the categorization of substances in commerce according to a set of health and environmental criteria. Categorized substances will be scientifically assessed to determine if they present risks to human health or the environment. For bisphenol A the assessment process will begin in mid-2007. Although Canada’s process is just beginning, assessments conducted by other government and scientific bodies worldwide all support the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the extremely low levels to which people might be exposed. Since bisphenol A does not persist in the environment and has low potential for bioaccumulation, it was not categorized according to the environmental criteria and is not considered to be an environmental risk.
What Did the Canadian Government Announce?
On December 8, 2006, the Canadian government announced details of Canada’s new chemicals management plan. The origin of the plan is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 (CEPA 1999), which established health and environmental requirements for new substances in Canada as well as for substances that were already in commerce.
One of the requirements of CEPA 1999 was for the Canadian government to categorize the approximately 23,000 substances already in commerce according to a defined set of health and environmental criteria.(1) The results of the categorization process have now been announced along with details on what happens next. Approximately 4,300 substances have been categorized, which means they will be assessed to determine if they present any risks to human health or the environment.
Since bisphenol A does not persist in the environment and has low potential for bioaccumulation, it was not categorized according to the environmental criteria and is not considered to be an environmental risk. Because polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, both made from bisphenol A, are used in a wide variety of consumer products, there is some potential for human exposure and bisphenol A was categorized according to the human health criteria on that basis.
Categorization is only the first step in a scientific evaluation process and does not in itself determine any risks or provide the basis for any action other than further assessment. In this regard, media reports that bisphenol A has been banned or determined to be unsafe are completely incorrect.
What Happens Next?
Categorized substances will be evaluated first with a screening assessment, which can have outcomes ranging from no further evaluation or action required, to a more detailed assessment, to risk management actions. Beginning in early 2007, the Canadian government will begin to release assessments of the substances considered to have the highest priority. It is anticipated that the assessment process for bisphenol A will begin by mid-2007.
What Have Other Governments Done?
Although the Canadian government is just now embarking on an assessment of bisphenol A, other government and scientific bodies worldwide have examined the scientific evidence supporting the safety of bisphenol A in recent years. In every case, these assessments support the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the extremely low levels to which people might be exposed. Key examples include:
- A comprehensive risk assessment conducted by the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (2005)(2)
- The Japanese Ministry of Environment, which conducted their own low-dose research on bisphenol A (2005)(3)
- A weight-of-evidence evaluation of low-dose reproductive and developmental effects of bisphenol A conducted by a panel of scientific experts organized by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis (2004)(4)
- A comprehensive European Union (EU) risk assessment (2003)(5)
- An independent assessment of the EU risk assessment by the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (2002)(6)
- A detailed assessment of bisphenol A focused on food contact applications by the EU Scientific Committee on Food (2002)(7)
- A scientific panel evaluation of low-dose effects from bisphenol A organized by the US National Toxicology Program (2001)(8)
For more information on the Canadian chemicals management plan, please visit:
1. Environmental criteria included persistence, bioaccumulation and inherent toxicity; human health criteria included potential for human exposure and inherent toxicity.
2. An abstract and detailed summary of the bisphenol A risk assessment are available at http://unit.aist.go.jp/riss/crm/mainmenu/e_1-10.html. For further discussion on the assessment, see http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20060320.html.
3. Japanese Ministry of Environment. 2005. MOE’s perspectives on endocrine disrupting effects of substances. March 2005. Available on the internet at http://www.env.go.jp/en/chemi/ed/extend2005_full.pdf.
4. Gray, G. M., Cohen, J. T., Cunha, G., Hughes, C., McConnell, E. E.,
Rhomberg, L., Sipes, I. G., and Mattison, D. 2004. Weight of the
evidence evaluation of low-dose reproductive and developmental effects
of bisphenol A. Human and Ecological Risk Assessment. 10:875-921. For a
description of this study and a link to the full paper, see
information on a new weight of evidence evaluation, see
5. Available on the internet at http://ecb.jrc.it/DOCUMENTS/Existing-Chemicals/RISK_ASSESSMENT/SUMMARY/bisphenolasum325.pdf (summary) and http://ecb.jrc.it/DOCUMENTS/Existing-Chemicals/RISK_ASSESSMENT/REPORT/bisphenolareport325.pdf (full report).
6. Available on the internet at http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/sct/documents/out156_en.pdf.
7. See http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20020715EuropeanCommission.html for a discussion on the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Food assessment of bisphenol A, and http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/sc/scf/out128_en.pdf for the complete assessment.
8. National Toxicology Program's Report of the Endocrine Disruptors Low Dose Peer Review, August 2001, available on the internet at http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/14446.