Manifesto Pledge 4: BPA in Food and Drinks Packaging

Ban the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in food and drinks packaging

Breast Cancer UK is calling for an immediate ban on the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in all food and drinks packaging and for it to be replaced with a safer alternative.

There is now a significant amount of scientific evidence that shows that even low level exposure to the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) has an adverse effect on the development of breast tissue [e.g. reviewed in 1 and 2] and that dietary exposure is the main route of human exposure, along with thermal receipt paper [3].  Continued uncertainty about the safety of BPA is such that the precautionary principle should be applied to ensure there is minimal chance of exposure.     

Cell culture experiments show that BPA has the ability to transform normal breast cells into cells of a more cancerous or overall malignant nature [4],[5],[6]. Animal studies show that exposure to BPA in the womb, or during early life, can increase breast density, cell growth and increase susceptibility to tumour formation [7],[8],[9].  BPA may trigger DNA strand breaks and interfere with cell division [10],[11]. It has also been found to interfere with chemotherapy, making it less effective against breast cancers [12]. 

As well as being linked to breast cancer, BPA is also linked to a range of other conditions including obesity [13], heart disease and cardiovascular problems [14] [15], infertility [16], diabetes [17] and recurrent miscarriage [18].  It was due to concerns about the harmfulness of the exposure of infants to BPA that the European Commission decided to ban its use in baby bottles in March 2011 [19].  Whilst this overdue step was welcome, it did nothing to reduce exposure of pregnant women and young children to the harmful effects of BPA.  

Proponents of BPA claim that it is safe to use because human levels of exposure are low.  The European Food Safety Authority recently conducted an assessment on BPA toxicity and exposures [20].  Despite acknowledging 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 (see our response to EFSA's conclusions). They have since revised this to BPA poses ‘low health concern’ [21].

Many scientists remain unconvinced about the safety of BPA.  They warn that even a low daily dose can have adverse affects [e.g. 22].  BPA gives rise to ‘non monotonic’ dose responses, which means that it has varying effects at different doses.  Therefore, to permit its continued use in products based on  so-called Tolerable Daily Intakes (TDIs) [23] which are, predicted from higher doses of BPA, may be unsafe for the consumer.  

A ban on the use of BPA in food and drinks packaging in France came into full effect in January 2015.  Sweden, Denmark and Belgium have all taken measures to reduce its use in products marketed at children under three years old.  It is vital that the UK Government takes similar steps and legislates for the provision of safer alternatives in food and drinks packaging.   

Breast Cancer UK is calling for:

  • The UK Government to support the removal of the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) for BPA, set by the EU.  It is misleading as many scientists now consider there are no safe levels of exposure to BPA;
  • The UK Government to ban the use of BPA in all food and drinks packaging and replace it with safer alternatives;
  • The UK Government to ban the use of BPA in till and other printed receipt papers and any products intended for children under three years old and replace it with safer alternatives. 

Back to 'Prevention is better than cure'

Read more about BPA

Read our response to the EFSA Re-Evaluation of BPA

References

[1]  ANSES (2013) Assessment of the health risks of bisphenol A (Accessed April 15th 2015)

[2] Srivastava, et al. (2015). Bisphenol A: A Threat to Human Health. Journal of Environmental Health 77(6) 20-27.

[3] European Food Safety Authority (2013). DRAFT Scientific Opinion on the risks to public health related to the 4 presence of bisphenol A (BPA) in foodstuffs – Part: exposure assessment1  (accessed April 15th 2015)

[4] Fernandez, M. F. et al. (2007). ‘Bisphenol-A and chlorinated derivatives in adipose tissue of women.’ Reproductive Toxicology 24(2): 259-264.

[5] Fernandez, S, V et al. (2012). Expression and DNA methylation changes in human breast epithelial cells after bisphenol A (BPA) exposure. International Journal of Oncology 241(1): 369–377.

[6] Goodson, W. H., 3rd, M. G. Luciani, et al. (2011). Activation of the mTOR pathway by low levels of xenoestrogens in breast epithelial cells from high-risk women. Carcinogenesis 32(11): 1724-1733.

[7] Tharp, A. P. et al. (2012). Bisphenol A alters the development of the rhesus monkey mammary gland. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 109(21): 8190-8195.

[8] Jenkins, et al. (2012). Endocrine-active chemicals in mammary cancer causation and prevention. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology129(3-5):191-200.

[9] Durando et al. (2011). Prenatal exposure to bisphenol A promotes angiogenesis and alters steroid-mediated responses in the mammary glands of cycling rats. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 127(1-2): 35-43.

[10] Iso, T. et al. (2006). DNA damage caused by bisphenol A and estradiol through estrogenic activity. Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 29(2): 206-210.

[11] George, O. et al. (2008). Bisphenol A directly targets tubulin to disrupt spindle organisation in embryonic and somatic cells. ASC  Chemical Biology 3(3):167-179.

[12] LaPensee, E.W. et al. (2010). Bisphenol A and estradiol are equipotent in antagonizing cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity in breast cancer cells. Cancer Letters 290(2): 167-173.

[13] Shankar, A. and Teppala, S. (2012). Urinary Bisphenol A and Hypertension in a Multiethnic sample of US Adults. Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2012 Article ID 481641.  

[14] Melzer, D. 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.

[15] Shankar, A. et al. (2012). Bisphenol A and Peripheral Arterial Disease: Results from the NHANES. Environmental  Health Perspectives 120(9):1297-300. /

[16] Salian, S. et al.. (2011). Perinatal exposure of rats to Bisphenol A affects fertility of male offspring--an overview. Reproductive Toxicology 3: 359-362.

[17] Shankar, A. and Teppala, S. (2011). Relationship between urinary bisphenol A levels and diabetes mellitus. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 96(12): 3822-3826.

[18] Mayumi, S.-O. et al. (2005). Exposure to bisphenol A is associated with recurrent miscarriage. Human Reproduction 20(8): 2325-2329.

[19] European Commission (2011). Bisphenol A: EU ban on baby bottles to enter into force tomorrow. (EU press release, 11/5/11). 

[20] EFSA (2015) No Consumer Health risk from BPA exposure: (Accessed April 14th, 2015)

[21] ChemTrust (2015). EFSA corrects its risk assessment of bisphenol A to acknowledge that experts didn’t say ‘no health concern.  (Accessed April 15th 2015)

[22] Vandenberg, L. N. et al. (2012). Hormones and endocrine-disrupting chemicals: low-dose effects and nonmonotonic dose responses. Endocrinology Reviews 33(3): 378-455.

[23] The Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) is an estimate of the amount of a substance expressed on a body weight basis, which can be ingested daily over a lifetime without appreciable risk.

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