No More BPA
Scientific evidence links our routine exposure to BPA to a range of diseases, including breast cancer.
As diet continues to be our main route of exposure to BPA, Breast Cancer UK is calling for it to be removed from all food and drinks packaging and replaced with safer alternatives.
What is BPA?
BPA is a man-made chemical first synthesised in the 1890s (1). It was discovered to mimic the hormone oestrogen in the 1930s (2). During the 1950s the chemical industry discovered that BPA could be used to make hard plastics, known as polycarbonates, and started to use it widely in various products (3).
How does BPA affect my body?
BPA is an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC). It is able to mimic oestrogen and can bind to the oestrogen receptors in a cell (4). Some studies have found that it can affect the development of mammary glands (e.g. reviewed in 5). BPA has been linked to breast cancer (e.g. 6), as well as to prostate cancer (e.g. 7), heart disease (e.g. 8), obesity (e.g. 9) and diabetes (e.g. 10).
Why ban it from food and drinks packaging?
Scientific studies have found that an important route of exposure to BPA is via our food and drink. BPA leaches from the packaging and into the products, especially when they are scratched or heated during cooking and in the dishwasher (e.g. reviewed in 11).
BPA is still used in a lot of plastic food and drinks packaging - microwave ovenware, storage containers, water and milk bottles as well as plastic tableware and cutlery, which is especially popular for toddlers and young children. It is also used to make the epoxy resins that line tins of food, such as baked beans, soup and tomatoes and cans of fizzy and alcoholic drinks.
The European Food Safety Authority recently conducted an assessment on BPA toxicity and exposures (12). Despite acknowedging that “uncertainties” remain around the potential health effects of BPA on the mammary gland, reproductive, metabolic, neurobehavioural and immune systems, EFSA concluded that BPA poses "no risk" to human health - a conclusion we have significant concerns about. Many scientists remain unconvinced about the safety of BPA. They warn that even a low daily dose can have adverse affects (e.g. 13).
Breast Cancer UK submitted evidence to both of EFSA's consultations expressing concern that studies relating to low dose exposures had been dismissed (see opposite). We will continue to call for a ban on the use of BPA in food and drinks packaging on the basis that studies show that low dose exposures to BPA have been shown to have an adverse effect on the mammary gland.
(1) Vogel, S. (2009) The Politics of Plastics: The Making and Unmaking of Bisphenol A “Safety” Am J Public Health. 2009 November; 99(3): S559–S566. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.159228
(2) Dodds, E.C. and Lawson W. Synthetic oestrogenic agents without the phenanthrene nucleus. Nature. 1936;137(3476):996
(3) Vogel, S. (2009) op. cit.
(4) Hiroi, H., O. Tsutsumi, et al. (1999). ‘Differential interactions of bisphenol A and 17beta-estradiol with estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and ERbeta.’ Endocr 46(6): 773-778.
(5) ANSES (2013) Assessment of the health risks of bisphenol A
(6) Fernandez, S. V. et al. (2012). 'Expression and DNA methylation changes in human breast epithelial cells after bisphenol A (BPA) exposure.' Int J Oncol. 2012 July; 41(1): 369–377. Published online 2012 April 20. doi:10.3892/ijo.2012.1444.
(7) vom Saal, F. S., Cooke, P.S., Buchanan, D.L., Palanza, P., Thayer, K.A., Nagel, S.C., Parmigiani, S., Welshons, W.V. (1998). ‘A physiologically based approach to the study of bisphenol A and other estrogenic chemicals on the size of reproductive organs, daily sperm production, and behavior.’ Toxicol Ind Health 14: 239-260.
(8) Melzer, D., N. J. Osborne, et al. (2012). ‘Urinary bisphenol A concentration and risk of future coronary artery disease in apparently healthy men and women.’ Circulation 125(12): 1482-1490. and Shankar, A., S. Teppala, et al. (2012). ‘Bisphenol A and Peripheral Arterial Disease: Results from the NHANES.’ Environ Health Perspect
(9) Shankar, A., S. Teppala, et al. (2012). ‘Urinary Bisphenol A Levels and Measures of Obesity: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2008.’ ISRN Endocrinol 2012: 965243.
(10) Shankar, A. Teppala, S. (2011). ‘Relationship between urinary bisphenol A levels and diabetes mellitus.’ J Clin Endocrinol Metab 96(12): 3822-3826.
(11) European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (2012) 'Food is main source of BPA for consumers, thermal paper also potentially significant' http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/130725.htm
(12) EFSA (2015) No Consumer Health risk from BPA exposure: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/150121.htm
(13) Vandenberg, L. N., T. Colborn, et al. (2012). ‘Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses.’ Endocr Rev 33(3): 378-455.
Last updated June 21, 2017