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New Study on BPA in Food Packaging Draws Urgent Attention to Need for Safer Chemicals Policy

Toxic Chemicals BPA and DEHP Not Currently Regulated Under Federal Law

To see more about this study, visit Breast Cancer Fund.

A peer-reviewed study released today by the Breast Cancer Fund and Silent Spring Institute, and published in today’s Environmental Health Perspectives, found that food packaging is a major source of exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, both endocrine-disrupting chemicals with known links to cancer, infertility, early puberty and other serious health problems. In this unprecedented human study, researchers discovered an average drop of 60 percent in BPA levels when study participants ate a diet that avoided contact with BPA-containing food packaging, such as canned food and polycarbonate plastic; and a 50 percent average drop in DEHP – a phthalate commonly used in food packaging.

“This is an important study,” said Andy Igrejas, Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families. “It highlights two things: first, the government still does not have a handle on these chemicals even though health concerns have been established for years. Secondly, there IS something consumers can do. As long as the federal government fails to identify and restrict toxic substances, consumers will increasingly have to take matters into their own hands through efforts like restricting their packaged food.”

BPA and the phthalate DEHP are both used widely in food packaging. BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastics and is used in the lining of food cans, and DEHP is an additive used in some food containers and plastic wraps to increase flexibility. BPA and phthalates are both known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals because of their effects on hormone systems.

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is supposed to ensure the safety of chemicals, but it is widely perceived to have failed. When a chemical is used in food packaging specifically, it is supposed to be regulated by FDA under separate law. Legislation to reform both areas was introduced in the last Congress, but was blocked by the chemical industry trade association, the American Chemistry Council. By contrast, several states have moved to restrict BPA and Phthalates in recent years, and some retailers — responding to consumer pressure — have dropped products containing problematic chemicals.

“This is a compound failure by the government,” said Igrejas. “Two agencies are failing to implement two different laws. As long as the chemical industry dominates Congress and stifles these agencies, consumers will have look to the states and their own wits to protect themselves from toxic substances.”