# Friday, April 25, 2008

Canada is the first country in the world to declare a chemical used in the manufacturing of hard plastic items as toxic, and is taking steps towards banning its use. Officials for the Canadian health ministry, as well as the Canadian environmental ministry announced the news last week, and said that it is very likely that the use of BPA in the manufacturing of baby bottles will be in effect within the next year. After being declared toxic, a 60 day commentary period comes into place where it seems highly unlikely that the toxic status will be overturned. After this 60 day period, if no new evidence is brought forward that clearly shows the chemical is safe, the chemical can be eligible to be banned within a year.

Health Canada's screening assessment of bisphenol A focused primarily on the impact of the chemical on newborns as well as infants up to the age of 18 months. Exposure to bisphenol A comes primarily from heating baby bottles that contain the chemical, as well as the migration from can liners into infant formula. The current studies show that while the exposure to the chemical is below levels that may pose a risk, the gap between exposure and effect is not large enough. Studies conducted by Environment Canada have shown that even low levels of BPA is harmful to fish and aquatic organisms over time; tests already show that the chemical can be found in waste water and sludge treatment plants.

Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical that is used to make a hard clear plastic known as polycarbonate. This plastic is used in many consumer products such as reusable water bottles, as well as baby bottles. The chemical is also used in epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining for the inside of metal-based food and beverage cans. This lining prevents corrosion of the can to protect the food or beverage from any dissolved metals, as well as helping to preserve the quality and safety of canned foods. The chemical is also used in other products such as medical devices, dental sealants, sports equipment such as helmets, electronics and automotive parts.

Certain studies have shown that exposure to even low levels of BPA during pregnancy, infancy, and/or early childhood may effect normal development. It can also cause sensitivity to the onset of diseases later in life, especially the potential for mammary and prostate cancer. Laboratory studies have shown that when infants are exposed to BPA, it can lead to neurological as well as behavior problems later in the future. However, there does not seem to be any risk associated with the chemical and adult humans.

For parents who use baby bottles to feed their newborn or infant, precautions should be taken. Do not pour boiling water in baby bottles that have BPA, as very hot water causes the chemical to migrate out of the bottle at a much higher rate. Water should be boiled and then allowed to cool to a lukewarm temperature in a non-polycarbonate container before being transferred into the baby bottle. This precaution should also be used when preparing infant formula that comes from cans that contain the chemical. If you are unsure about whether or not the baby bottles you are currently using contain BPA, check the bottom of the bottle. Typically a number 7 can be found in the centre of the recycling symbol. Note that the number 7 is used to denote a broad category; you can only be 100% sure if the container has BPA when the initials PC are beside the number 7. If the bottle has no recycling symbol, there is no way to determine if it is a polycarbonate or not. You can also switch to using glass baby bottles, as well as alternative plastic bottles that do not contain the chemical. As there is no discernable risk in the exposure of BPA through canned drinks and foods, there is no reason to stop using these products.

Health Canada is continuing to study the effects of Bisphenol A, especially in pregnant women as well as infants. However, as the current completed studies have shown some risk, the Department of Health has decided to be "safe, rather than sorry" when it comes to this particular chemical.

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