California Adds BPA to Dangerous Chemical List, May Require Special Labeling

May 11, 2015|4:33 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

California took one step closer to requiring warning labels on bottles and cans that use the controversial substance Bisphenol A, also known as BPA. The labels would warn that BPA can cause reproductive harm to women.

California’s Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee, which advises the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, determined that the science behind the claim that BPA can cause female reproductive toxicity is sound, which means the chemical is subject to California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (also known as Proposition 65). The law requires warnings on products that contain chemicals that are harmful. It is the second time BPA has made an appearance on the Proposition 65 list. It was added to the list several years ago, but removed after litigation from plastics manufacturers resulted in a court ruling that more evidence was needed before BPA could be added to the list, and therein lies the controversy.

The science behind BPA has a checkered history. Early studies determined the chemical in the trace amounts it enters the food supply to be safe, followed by others that questioned those findings. A major study at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, funded by plastics and chemical companies, determined again that it was safe. Then the National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction released a study that led to the news headlines in 2008 the reported BPA as a potentially hazardous substance, all the more dangerous because of its ubiquity in food and beverage packaging. As a result, 12 states and the District of Columbia passed laws to limit or eliminate BPA from certain uses. The chemical industry continues to champion the use and safety of BPA, while consumer groups fight for more regulation.

The next step in California will be to determine at what level BPA becomes harmful to reproductive health. Any packaging that falls above the threshold determined will be required to carry the labeling in the state.