In reviewing a proposed bill to ban BPA from food and beverage containers, a San Francisco Chronicle article presents a one-sided view of available alternatives.
A San Francisco Chronicle article describes efforts by U.S. Representative Dianne Feinstein to pass a bill banning bisphenol A (BPA) from food and beverage containers. Unfortunately, the reporter relies on information provided by industry officials to explain the availability of BPA-free alternatives. This one-sided approach misinforms readers.
Reporter Carolyn Lochhead states that “With no viable alternative for can liners, an immediate ban would be equivalent to banning canned foods.” An industry spokesman adds that “banning [BPA] would make food less safe because there is no viable alternative to line cans and jars.”
These statements stretch the truth. There are, in fact, food cans on the market without BPA in their epoxy linings. Some BPA-free cans are made with a vegetable-based lining that was used by the canning industry before the switch to BPA-based resins. These have been used for more than a decade.
Lochhead interviewed only a few sources for her story: Representative Feinstein; a U.S. Food and Drug Administration representative; and the director of the American Chemistry Council, an industry lobbying group. The important voice that is missing is an independent scientist. A scientist who works on BPA could have pointed out the alternative cans that exist and provided better accuracy in reporting the effects of BPA on animals and humans.
Human exposure to BPA is widespread through food can linings, polycarbonate plastics, some thermal papers and dental sealants, among other sources. A 2008 study by the US CDC showed that almost everyone has this chemical in their bodies. Reducing or eliminating BPA in consumer products can have a significant impact on human exposures. A 2003 study found that BPA levels in urine collected from Japanese college students in 1999 dropped compared to levels measured from similar students in 1992. During this period of time, the authors report that some can linings were changed from a BPA-based resin to a lining that eliminated or reduced the use of BPA.
BPA has been linked to numerous adverse health effects in exposed animals, including malformations of the male and female reproductive tract, changes in the development of the brain, alterations in the immune system, development of prostate and mammary cancers, and changes in behavior, among others. BPA studies in humans, while limited, also suggest that this chemical could have adverse health effects.