Scientists Call on California to Adopt Tougher Standard on BPA

Oakland, CA-In anticipation of a California public comment period ending this Wednesday, twenty-two scientists from leading universities and health advocacy groups have signed a joint letter supporting California’s proposal to add the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) to the state’s “Prop 65” list of substances known to cause reproductive health problems. The letter also notes that recent studies show harmful effects from BPA at extremely low doses and calls on state regulators to adopt a lower standard (Maximum Allowable Dose Level) than the currently proposed level. The scientists’ letter states, “(W)e believe that setting a MADL that is consistent with current science and is health-protective is urgent and of utmost importance.”

California and several other states have banned BPA from products for young children, but the chemical is still widely used in some hard plastics (especially polycarbonate plastics), in the lining used in many canned foods, in cash register receipts and many other everyday products. If listed by the state as a reproductive toxicant under the state’s Prop 65 consumer protection law, products sold in California that expose consumers to BPA above allowable levels would be required to carry warning labels.

“Our children and families are often exposed to this ubiquitous chemical in dozens of products throughout the day,” said Caroline Cox, Research Director of the Center for Environmental Health, which coordinated the scientists’ letter. “California must weigh the scientific data linking very low levels of BPA to serious health concerns, and create an appropriately health protective standard.”

In addition to medical and scientific researchers from Yale University, Columbia University, Tufts University and Tufts School of Medicine, the University of Illinois, the University of California, Simon Fraser University, Ithaca College, and North Carolina State University, the letter is signed by lead scientists from the Center for Environmental Health, Consumers Union, the Breast Cancer Fund, Advancing Green Chemistry, and The Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

The scientists’ letter notes that “There is an enormous amount of research about developmental effects of BPA,” and calls on the state to lower the allowable exposure (MADL) from 290 micrograms/day (ug/day) to no more than 1/12 that amount (23.2 ug/day). The letter lists ten examples from recent animal studies showing harmful effects at 1/12 the dose and even lower doses than the proposed California level. For example, a 2013 Yale University study by a team led by Dr. John Elsworth (one of the signers of the letter) linked BPA to impacts on brain development in the offspring of Rhesus monkeys exposed to the chemical at a level that is 1/12 the proposed state standard. The letter also cites nine other animal studies linking low levels of BPA exposure to harm to the mammary gland, ovaries, pituitary gland and other health concerns, and seven studies linking BPA in the urine or blood of pregnant women to adverse maternal and/or child health outcomes.

BPA is an “endocrine disrupting” chemical that can alter the bodies’ natural hormones and cause serious health problems. In March 2012, a team of 12 scientists (including two signers of the letter) reviewed more than 800 studies of endocrine disrupting chemicals and found that they can cause health problems at extremely low-doses.

In March, the chemical industry trade group the American Chemistry Council (ACC) sued California for the proposed BPA listing. An ACC spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times (1), “”There is no scientific reason” for the state to list the harmful chemical. In fact, numerous medical and scientific bodies, including the Endocrine Society, the President’s Cancer Panel, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Medical Association have called BPA a potential health threat.

“We have the right to know when products expose our children and families to harmful chemicals like BPA,” said Cox. “California must create a strong rule that informs parents and families when products expose us to this highly toxic chemical.”

The Center for Environmental Health has a sixteen-year track record of protecting children and families from harmful chemicals in our air, water, food and in dozens of every day products. CEH also works with major industries and leaders in green business to promote healthier alternatives to toxic products and practices. In 2010, the San Francisco Business Times bestowed its annual “Green Champion” award to CEH for its work to improve health and the environment in the Bay Area and beyond.

For the scientists’ letter with the full list of signers, click here.

(1)    Anthony York, “Firms sue to keep California from adding BPA to ‘blacklist’ .” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2013, online at  http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-chemicals-20130302,0,5161122.story

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