On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is formally listing Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical found widely in consumer goods, as a “chemical of concern.”
Although this action will not immediately trigger any new legislation, the “chemical of concern” listing indicates that EPA considers BPA potentially dangerous and that further regulatory action is warranted. According to the EPA, chemicals of concern raise “serious environmental or health concerns” and in some cases “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to health and the environment.”
The “chemical of concern” designation also triggers export and production notifications under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), requirements that may deter some users.
BPA, which is present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans, is so widespread that 90 percent of Americans show traces of it in their urine. Studies employing standardized toxicity tests have traditionally supported the safety of current low levels of human exposure. However, a September 2008 BPA review by the National Toxicology Program found “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures.”
Studies have also linked BPA to heart disease and cancer in humans.
In response, the EPA has ordered manufacturers to test the chemical’s impact on animals and the environment. The agency will also test to see how much BPA leaks into the air and water from facilities where it is produced or dumped.
At this time, regulatory agencies have yet to determine the long-term effects of BPA. According to a 2010 FDA report, “the current literature cannot yet be fully interpreted for biological or experimental consistency or for relevance to human health.”
“FDA is pursuing additional studies to address the uncertainties in the findings, seeking public input and input from other agencies, and supporting a shift to a more robust regulatory framework for oversight of BPA to be able to respond quickly, if necessary, to protect the public.”