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01-22-2015

No Health Risks from BPA Exposure

The European Food Safety Authority's comprehensive re-evaluation of bisphenol A (BPA) exposure and toxicity concludes that BPA poses no health risk to consumers of any age group (including unborn children, infants and adolescents) at current exposure levels. Exposure from the diet or from a combination of sources (diet, dust, cosmetics and thermal paper) is considerably under the safe level (the “tolerable daily intake” or TDI).

Although new data and refined methodologies have led EFSA’s experts to considerably reduce the safe level of BPA from 50 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day (µg/kg of bw/day) to 4 µg/kg of bw/day, the highest estimates for dietary exposure and for exposure from a combination of sources (called “aggregated exposure” in EFSA’s opinion) are three to five times lower than the new TDI.

Uncertainties surrounding potential health effects of BPA on the mammary gland, reproductive, metabolic, neurobehavioral and immune systems have been quantified and factored in to the calculation of the TDI. In addition, the TDI is temporary pending the outcome of a long-term study in rats, which will help to reduce these uncertainties.

The panel dealing with food contact materials (CEF Panel) decided to re-evaluate the safety of BPA because of the publication of a huge number of new research studies in recent years. To be as open and transparent as possible, EFSA thoroughly consulted and engaged with national authorities and stakeholders during this risk assessment to ensure that the widest possible range of scientific views and information were considered.

Refined Assessment of BPA Toxicity

After weighing up a significant body of new scientific information on its toxic effects, the CEF Panel concluded that high doses of BPA (hundreds of times above the TDI) are likely to adversely affect the kidney and liver. It may also cause effects on the mammary gland in animals.

Studies indicating BPA as the cause of other health effects were less conclusive, stated Dr Trine Husøy, a member of EFSA's CEF Panel. “Effects on the reproductive, nervous, immune, metabolic and cardiovascular systems, as well as in the development of cancer are not considered likely at present but they could not be excluded on the available evidence. So, they add to the overall uncertainty about BPA-related hazards and therefore have been considered in the assessment.”

In 2006, when EFSA last assessed dietary exposure to BPA, fewer data were available and EFSA’s experts were required to make several conservative assumptions about consumption and the levels of BPA in food. “With significantly more and better data we have updated and more accurately estimated dietary exposure to BPA for all population groups, said Dr Husøy. “As a result, we now know that dietary exposure is four to fifteen times lower than previously estimated by EFSA, depending on the age group.”

Thermal paper (figure: www.thermalpaperfacts.org)

Thermal paper (figure: www.thermalpaperfacts.org)

For the first time, EFSA has also considered exposure to BPA from non-dietary sources. Dr Husøy underlined however: “There is a lack of supporting data on dermal exposure – for example, how much BPA the body absorbs through skin by touching thermal paper – which really increases the uncertainty of estimates from thermal paper and cosmetics”.

EFSA will reconsider the temporary TDI when the results of long-term research by the US National Toxicology Program are available for evaluation in two to three years. This research is expected to address many of the remaining uncertainties about BPA’s toxic effects.

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