French Health Agency Study Explores Health Risks for Bisphenol A

April 9, 2013

In April of 2013, a study performed by ANSES (the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) was published to determine the , along with three other reports focusing on alternatives to the substance, the potential hazards of other compounds within the bisphenol class and a report on any ambiguities regarding endocrine disruptors.

Carried out by ANSES' expert groups, the multidisciplinary, adversarial collective expert appraisal focused primarily on endocrine disruptors. The work used data from all available international studies with the results of the measurement campaigns determining the presence of bisphenol A and its exposure to the public.

Results showed that the predominant health risk of bisphenol A is to pregnant women in regards to its potential effects to the unborn child. The ANSES study, for the first time, analyzed the public's actual exposure to bisphenol A through three media: through food; through inhalation; and through physical contact with consumer products containing the compound. 80% of all bisphenol A exposure comes from ingestion, with 50% of that exposure coming from canned foods. In addition to canned goods, the study also pointed out that refillable polycarbonate containers are a major source of exposure through ingestion.

The study, conducted on animals, pointed to significant health risks for pregnant women, specifically to their unborn child. The study highlighted the health effects to the mammary glands of the unborn child, which may result in future tumour development. However, the study points out that the potential risks are considered "moderate" by experts in regards to the uncertainties surrounding the issue.

In regards to tactile exposure to bisphenol A, the study points out thermal paper, like those used for credit card and cash register receipts, as the main source of bisphenol A exposure in the workplace.

In December of 2012, the French government passed legislation to suspend the manufacturing and the importing/exporting of food products that contain bisphenol A, which should result in a notable reduction of exposure to the compound. ANSES further pointed out that although alternatives to bisphenol A should be sought, they do not advocate the use of other compounds in the bisphenol class as one such alternative.

ANSES also offered two recommendations to improve knowledge in order to resolve the multiple uncertainties surrounding bisphenol A:

1) ANSES recommends gathering greater scientific data in regards to the health risks of bisphenol A as it pertains to vulnerable populations, such as young children.  

2) ANSES suggests reviewing the accuracy of using toxicity reference values or tolerable daily intakes when the periods of vulnerability are unknown. During the risk assessment process, the Agency suggests, a systematic, interdisciplinary analysis of uncertainties must be undertaken.