What is it?
BPA and BPS are two types of bisphenols, a group of chemicals with possible adverse effects on human health and environmental impact. BPA (Bisphenol A) is especially well-known due to its abundance in plastic-based products like water bottles and food containers. Though not studied as much as BPA, BPS (Bisphenol S), is being used increasingly by plastics manufacturers as an alternative to BPA.
Who regulates it?
Although bisphenols’ effect on human health is still largely unknown, governments around the world have started to regulate bisphenols like BPA and BPS in goods and products to ensure safety. Most jurisdictions have set limits on BPA content in goods while BPS has not yet been heavily regulated but is subject to scrutiny by governing bodies worldwide.
Europe: Highly Regulated
The EU has had a long history of bisphenol-A (BPA) regulation, beginning in 1997 with the restriction on bisphenols A & S (BPS) in plastic and epoxy coating in food contact materials. From there, the regulation of BPA continued to expand year after year and extended to toys, childcare articles and sportswear in 1999. In 2002, the ban was extended to include plastic kitchenware, which was followed by a ban on resins used in inner coatings for food and beverages cans. By 2005, Member States began imposing stricter limits on the migration levels of bisphenols A & S with established toxicological profiles. In 2020, bisphenols such as brominated bisphenol A (BBPA) have become restricted substances due to their potential adverse health effects. The EU is continuing its efforts to ensure proper regulation of BPA and its related compounds to protect human health from chemical bisphenol-based substances.
More info from the EU: ECHA: European Chemicals Agency
United States: Somewhat Regulated
In 2008, the United States took its first big step to regulate bisphenol A (BPA) when it banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups. Since then, regulations have tightened, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration releasing new policies to reduce human exposure to bisphenols such as bisphenol S (BPS). This includes prohibiting the sale and distribution of all bisphenols in consumer products like toys and food contact items that are intended for use by children under the age of three. The FDA also recently proposed interim measures related to bps to further protect public health.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) takes bisphenol A (BPA) seriously. It is classified as a “chemical of concern” by the CDC, due to its potential to cause adverse health effects in humans. The CDC also recognizes bisphenol S (BPS), another chemical used in bpa-free products, as a possible environmental contaminant with potentially hazardous effects as well. As part of its prevention strategies, the CDC suggests reducing exposure to bpa and bps by avoiding products containing them or ensuring they remain safely contained.
More Info: CDC Fact Sheet
The US FDA is currently unclear on bisphenol A (BPA), which is a chemical found in plastics and in certain types of coating used on food items. The agency has advocated for continued research into the health effects of BPA and bisphenol S (BPS) but has not ruled conclusively on their safety. In 2012, the organization banned BPA from use in infant formula packaging due to concerns over its effects on children, though other uses remain allowed. It’s advised that consumers avoid using plastic containers marked with ‘PC’ or ‘#7,’ as they might contain bisphenols.
More Info: FDA Q&A on BPA
Canada: Somewhat Regulated
In Canada, bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS) are being regulated for consumer product safety. Health Canada has determined that exposure to these substances can be hazardous to human health and have gone so far as to limit their use to specific amounts in products such as food containers and plastic water bottles.
More Info: Gov of Canada BPA Overview
Where is it found? (Most common products)
Common products with bpa and bps include:
- food packaging such as soda can linings, plastic bottles, and plastic containers
- cash register receipts
- medical devices
- some water pipes
How much Bisphenol exposure is dangerous?
It is unclear how much bisphenol exposure is actually dangerous for humans. Recent studies conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have suggested that low-level bisphenols are generally safe, although some research has indicated there may be potential health risks at even very low doses of bisphenols. Ultimately, more research is needed to assess the link between bisphenols and human health before we can determine just how much bisphenol exposure can be considered dangerous.
How to avoid it?
The consensus from the environmental and health-conscious community is to stay away from products that typically have BPA or BPS in them, with particular awareness for products related to food or skin contact.
Simple tips from the community:
- Avoid food and beverages stored in plastic containers or cans
- Avoid plastics #1 (PETE or PET), #3 (PVC) and #6 (polystyrene)
- Safer alternatives are plastics #2 (HDPE), #4 (LDPE) and #5 (polypropylene)
You can search the EWG database to find food with BPA and other toxic chemicals.