Expert Panel Says BPA Exposure Controls Premature Given Current State of Knowledge

OTTAWA--An international expert panel has concluded that action to restrict exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) is premature, as links between ingestion of the substance and serious health issues remain unconfirmed, the World Health Organization said Nov. 9.

The experts decided, at the conclusion of a Nov. 1-5 meeting in Ottawa, that although some recent studies found associations between low levels of exposure to BPA and some adverse health effects, it is difficult to interpret their relevance given the current state of knowledge on BPA, WHO said in a joint statement with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

“Until these associations are confirmed, initiation of public health measures would be premature,” WHO said.

A summary report of the meeting's findings will be available by the end of November, WHO toxicologist Angelika Tritscher told BNA Nov. 12. She said although the findings are not conclusive, they do provide a basis for additional research on the health impacts of BPA exposure. “Several important studies are already in progress that will help to clarify the extent of the human health impact of this chemical,” she said.

WHO said the expert panel concluded that food intake is the main source of bisphenol A exposure and that other sources are of only minor relevance. The chemical is migrating from food packaging, including plastic containers such as baby bottles and coated food cans, into the food within the container, the organization said. Less important sources of exposure include house dust, soil, toys, dental treatments, and thermal papers such as cash register receipts, it said.

The expert panel reviewed the latest scientific evidence, including linkage of human studies measuring BPA levels in urine with estimates of BPA dietary intake from food consumption surveys, it said. “They found that the results were in agreement,” WHO said. “The experts were also able to model circulating levels of BPA in the human body, which are very low, indicating that BPA is not accumulated in the body and is rapidly eliminated through urine,” it said.

U.S. regulators have been paying close attention to BPA. The Environmental Protection Agency said recently it has begun work on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that would seek comment on whether it should require manufacturers of BPA to test the chemical for its potential to cause endocrine-related adverse effects (34 CRR 1079, 11/8/10).

By Peter Menyasz