Does San Francisco Know Something the Rest of the World Doesn’t?
In a Word — No
June 19, 2006
The City of San Francisco recently passed an ordinance to ban toys and child care articles intended for use by children under the age of three years that are made with or contain bisphenol A. There is no scientific basis for the ordinance and the San Francisco government officials did not solicit any input, in particular scientific input, before taking action. In contrast, the government and scientific bodies worldwide that have assessed the scientific evidence have, in every case, supported the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health. No government body that has reviewed the science has banned or restricted bisphenol A.
What Did the City of San Francisco Do?
An ordinance was recently passed by the City of San Francisco that will ban toys and child care articles intended for use by children under the age of three years if those products have been made with or contain any level of bisphenol A. As of December 1, 2006, the manufacture, distribution in commerce, and sale of these products will be forbidden within the City of San Francisco.
The ordinance potentially could ban a wide range of products, many of which are designed to enhance the health and safety of children. For example, polycarbonate plastic is used to make shatter-resistant bottles and food storage containers, CDs and DVDs, components of life-saving medical devices, incubator domes, lightweight and virtually unbreakable corrective eyeglass lenses, and sports safety equipment such as bicycle helmets. Epoxy resin coatings on the interior surface of metal food and beverage cans provide an essential public health benefit by preventing corrosion of the can and contamination of food.
Why Did They Do It?
The ordinance provides no information on the basis for this action beyond a general description of bisphenol A as “an estrogen-mimicking endocrine disrupter chemical.” In addition, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors did not solicit any input from affected parties, in particular scientific input, and there is no indication that their decision was based on science. Consequently, the ordinance cannot be considered as a decision on the safety of children’s products since the science supporting the safety of bisphenol A was apparently not considered at all.
Had the Board of Supervisors solicited input, they would have learned what the rest of the world already knows. None of the government bodies that have reviewed the scientific evidence have banned or restricted bisphenol A.
Why Does the Rest of the World Support the Safety of Bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A is one of the best studied substances, with a large database of toxicological and exposure information available to assess human health concerns. Government and scientific bodies worldwide have comprehensively examined the scientific evidence and, 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:
- In June 2006, a panel of scientific experts reported the results of their weight-of-the-evidence evaluation of low-dose reproductive and developmental effects of bisphenol A. Considering studies published through February 2006 and the results of a 2004 evaluation (see below), the panel concluded “the weight of evidence does not support the hypothesis that low oral doses of BPA adversely affect human reproductive and developmental health.” (1)
- In January 2006, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR, Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung) released a statement with their views on the safety of polycarbonate baby bottles. (2) They noted “The BfR does not recognize any health risk for babies that are fed from baby bottles made of polycarbonate.”
- A November 2005 statement from the US Food and Drug Administration on the safety of food contact products made from polycarbonate concluded “based on all the evidence available at this time, FDA sees no reason to change its long-held position that current uses with food are safe.” (3)
- In November 2005, a comprehensive risk assessment on bisphenol A conducted by scientists at the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology concluded that “current exposure levels of BPA will not pose any unacceptable risk to human health.” (4)
- In March 2005, the Japanese Ministry of Environment reported the results of their own tests on bisphenol A, including a comprehensive reproductive test in laboratory animals. MOE concluded that there were no clear endocrine disrupting effects at low doses and that no regulatory action is required to manage risks. (5)
- In 2004, a weight-of-the-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 “found no consistent affirmative evidence of low-dose BPA effects for any endpoint.” (6)
- In 2003, a comprehensive European Union risk assessment (7) was published along with a critical review by the Scientific Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment (8) that stated “The CSTEE agrees with the conclusion of the RAR [Risk Assessment Report] that there is no convincing evidence that low doses of bisphenol A have effects on developmental parameters in offspring.”
The weight of scientific evidence, as reviewed by scientific and government bodies worldwide, supports the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the extremely low levels to which people might be exposed. Based on these assessments, bisphenol A has not been banned or restricted anywhere in the world.
1. Goodman, J. E., McConnell, E. E., Sipes, I. G., Witorsch, R. J., Slayton, T. M., Yu, C. J., Lewis, A. S., and Rhomberg, L. R. 2006. An Updated Weight of the Evidence Evaluation of Reproductive and Developmental Effects of Low Doses of Bisphenol A. Critical Reviews in Toxicology. 36:387-457. For a summary of this study, see http://www.gradientcorp.com/coinfo/RiskBull.html.
2. Selected questions and answers relating to bisphenol A in baby bottles. Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung. January 18, 2006. http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/7294 (English), http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/7195 (German).
3. Letter from Dr. George H. Pauli of the Food and Drug Administration to Greg Aghazarian, California
State Assemblymember, November 28, 2005.
4. An abstract and detailed summary of the bisphenol A risk assessment are available at http://unit.aist.go.jp/crm/mainmenu/e_1-10.html. For further discussion on the assessment, see http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20060320.html.
5. 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.
6. 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 http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20040903Harvard.html.
7. 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).
8. Available on the internet at http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/sct/documents/out156_en.pdf.