While Health Canada keeps saying the BPA in consumer products is safe, a new survey by StatsCan suggests behavioural problems in six- to 17-year-olds may be connected to the plastic hardener used in can linings, dental fillers and receipts.
Statistics Canada has been bio-monitoring Canadians for 104 chems of concern since 2007. Its latest survey found that a staggering 93 per cent of kids aged six to 11 and 94 per cent 12 to 19 had detectable levels of bisphenol A in their urine.
Those levels were just 1.3 parts per billion on average (equal to about a drop of water in an Olympic pool), but StatsCan says that "although the evidence is inconclusive, even low levels of BPA exposure may be associated with negative health outcomes for children, including behavioural problems."
The agency found that BPA is associated with hyperactivity and inattention in girls and "lower pro-social" behaviour (consideration for others, etc) in boys, confirming the findings of other studies. Exposure to BPA has also been linked to anxiety and depression in kids.
Bisphenol A levels were highest in children from lower-income households and those exposed to the compound second-hand. Turns out some cigarette filters are made with BPA, so the hormone-disrupting chem becomes airborne in cigarette smoke. The substance can also be found in reusable polycarbonate bottles, toys, plastic dinnerware, epoxy linings of metal food containers and white dental composites and sealants. They're also used to coat shiny thermal receipts, which get recycled into all sorts of paper products.
Ultimately, what the StatsCan report does is highlight Health Canada's spotty approach to the dangers of BPA. The feds declared BPA toxic back in 2010 and proceeded to ban it from baby bottles and infant formula cans to "enhance protection" for newborns and infants. But they're not particularly worried about other sources of exposure.
Environmental Defence's Maggie MacDonald says there's ample evidence linking BPA not just to behavioural problems in kids, but also to diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and possibly to breast and prostate cancer.
"There is no reason for delaying action," says MacDonald. "The government should stop dragging its feet and ban BPA in consumer products."
The feds also need to tackle BPA's under-studied replacements. A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that BPF and BPS are just as hormonally active as BPA. Until the feds get a grip on hormone-disrupting chemicals as a whole, "BPA-free" labels on stuff like polycarbonate bottles can be pretty meaningless.