U.S. study ambivalent on BPA dangers

A new U.S. report neither condemns nor clears the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which Canadian retailers are rushing to get off the shelves.

Calls for more research

A new U.S. report neither condemns nor clears the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which Canadian retailers are rushing to get off the shelves.

"There is some concern for neural and behavioural effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures" to BPA, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) said in a release Tuesday.

But the report did not conclude the chemical, used to line cans and in water and baby bottles, is dangerous.

It called for more study, because "the possibility that bisphenol A may impact human development cannot be dismissed," said the agency, which is part of the U.S. government's National Institutes of Health.

The U.S. report was released as Health Canada was expected to classify bisphenol A as a dangerous substance, which could lead to regulations restricting the use of the chemical. It is found in many hard plastic toys, bottles and food containers.

A number of leading Canadian retailers have stopped selling containers with BPA, led by Mountain Equipment Co-op, which moved on the issue in December.

On Wednesday, Wal-Mart Canada said it would immediately stop the sale of select baby bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, food containers and water bottles containing BPA.

"For many months, we've heard loudly and clearly from customers committed to buying BPA-free products, particularly in the baby aisles," Andrew Pelletier, vice-president of corporate affairs, said in a release.

In March, Hudson's Bay Co. said it had bought large quantities of BPA-free baby bottles and nipples, while Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. and Forzani Group on Tuesday both independently said they will no longer sell plastic water bottles with BPA.

"Canadian parents who are following the current debate on the potential health impacts of products with BPA have expressed their desire for alternatives for their kids," Bay executive Kevin Meloche said in a release.

Animal studies show possible behaviour, brain, gland changes

The NTP report said the scientific evidence supports a conclusion of some concern for exposures in fetuses, infants and children. That conclusion is based on animal studies showing that "low" exposure during development can cause changes in behaviour and to the brain, prostate gland, mammary gland, and the age at which females reach puberty.

"These studies only provide limited evidence for adverse effects on development and more research is needed to better understand their implications for human health."

However, studies showed very serious consequences — the death of the fetus, lower birth weights and limited growth in infancy — when pregnant lab animals were exposed to high levels of BPA.

Those effects occurred at exposure levels far higher than humans face, the report said.

Two recent human studies did not show any birth defects among pregnant women exposed to BPA, NTP said.

The NTP said it based its Draft Brief on Bisphenol A on an expert panel report done for the NTP Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, public comments on the report, and new scientific studies.