BPA is currently not banned in the UK.
BPA is commonly found in the UK as well as most countries today. Currently, Britain adheres to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) BPA policy, which has ruled the substance safe for use at current levels.
The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) supports the EFSA policy, allowing BPA to be used at certain levels by British consumers.
What is BPA found in?
Otherwise known as bisphenol A, BPA is a chemical found in a range of everyday household products, as well as food packaging.
It’s used as a hardening agent in certain kinds of plastics and resins and is often (though not always) found in plastics marked with the number codes 3 and 7, or the letters PC.
Products that frequently contain BPA are plastics (eg. toys, containers, utensils), the lining of tin cans used for food, home items like CDs, some toiletries and dental sealant.
Concerns have been raised over food packaging and food-associated products like reusable plastic drink bottles, as BPA can leach into food (see some recommended BPA-free water bottles here).
Baby products such as dummies containing BPA have also raised alarm, an issue that has recently been addressed by the EFSA.
Why is BPA considered harmful?
Over the last few years, BPA has become a highly controversial substance due to its hormone-disrupting effects, although a relative lack of conclusive scientific evidence means it is still widely used.
BPA imitates the female hormone estrogen ad has been linked to a number of endocrine related health problems, particularly breast cancer.
Breast Cancer UK has campaigned for a BPA ban, pointing to evidence that the substance negatively affects the development of mammary glands and increase the likelihood of developing cancer later in life.
The chemical has also been linked to prostate cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, infertility, and damage to fetuses in pregnant women.
BPA leaches its way into our body through exposure and food. Some is excreted through urine, though it’s also been detected in breast milk and umbilical cord blood, meaning that babies are being exposed to the substance in utero.
Despite industry claims that BPA is safe, Breast Cancer UK has compared the chemical to DDT, cigarettes and asbestos, all substances that were promoted by scientists and governments as safe, only to be later revealed as deadly.
Have other countries banned BPA?
Some EU member states have called for BPA to be banned completely.
France in particular has been calling for the chemical to be banned since 2012, a move that the UK actively tried to block. In 2013, France banned BPA in all baby products, a policy also held by Denmark, Sweden and Belgium.
Only a few months ago, in October 2017, the EU amended its regulations on BPA in baby products.
BPA has been banned in plastic baby bottles since 2011, but new changes will also ban it from sippy cups.
Regulations will also aim to reduce the amount of BPA allowed to migrate from containers into baby consumables such as formula, milk based drinks, baby food, cereals and food for special medical purposes.
The regulation should come into effect this year and is intended to reduce exposure to BPA in infants and babies aged 0-3.
The EU has also moved to ban BPA in thermal paper, used for receipts such as those you get at the supermarket and other shops.
So far, the matter has been investigated, but no decision has been made to confirm a ban.
It should also be noted that the rival chemical likely to take the place of BPA is bisphenol S (BPS), which may have a similar effect on health.
Consumers should be aware that just because a product of any sort is labeled as “BPA free,” that doesn’t mean it necessarily free from endocrine disrupting chemicals, as most plastics contain a cocktail of unlabeled substances that may or may not have properties similar to BPA.
In 2015, France was successful in banning BPA from all packaging, containers and utensils that come in direct contact with food, a policy that is at odds with the EU’s current recommendation.
This decision was supported by a committee at the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), which unanimously voted that BPA is an endocrine disruptor and “substance of very high concern,” although EFSA maintains that evidence is still unclear in this matter.
EFSA has reviewed laws regarding BPA about a dozen times over the past decade. The last comprehensive evaluation took place in 2015, with several smaller revisions since then.
While the review found that there was no consumer risk from BPA, EFSA did lower the tolerated daily intake (TDI), due to the development of more accurate scientific measuring techniques and uncertain safety data.
The current TDI is 4 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day; a significant reduction from the previous allowance of 50 micrograms.
Will there be a ban in the future?
EFSA’s next scheduled review of BPA is coming up during 2018, and should take into account any new scientific and safety information about the chemical.
Whether the data currently available will be enough to persuade the agency to recommend a BPA ban is uncertain, especially as the FDA and similar organizations have yet to take a real stand on the topic.
With Brexit imminent, it remains to be seen whether the UK will continue to follow EFSA’s recommendations or conduct its own research in the coming years.
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