First rigorous health study of BPA-levels in food

5148962595_1fab34681aThe first ever peer-reviewed study of BPA levels in specific US foods was just published, and the results are surprisingly comforting. The headline you might read is that BPA levels are 1,000 times lower than the health levels for “tolerable daily intake” set by US and European food safety authorities.

BPA-Bisphenol A- is a concern because it has been linked with a host of human health conditions, including increased risks of cancer, heart disease, even sexual dysfunction. Its also ubiquitous in food containers. It is believed to be present in 95% of humans. Though recently removed from plastic baby bottles due to health concerns, and being gradually phased out of plastic water bottles, BPA can still be found lining the cans that food is packaged in. That white, plastic-like coating inside your green-bean can? That contains BPA. Many plastic wrappers and containers also contain BPA, and potentially release it into their contents.

Of the 105 foods tested, canned green beans appeared to have the highest concentration of BPA, somewhere in the 50 nano-grams per gram of food. At that level, a 70 kg (154 lbs) adult who eats one can a day would have an intake of 0.35 micro grams per kg body weight. The tolerable limit set by US food safety authorities is 50 micrograms per kg per day, the Europeans set that limit at 10 micrograms per kg. Since you are not likely to eat that many beans, the average person is likely OK according to those “tolerable” health limits. There is no doubt an entire science dedicated to defining what we mean by a tolerable limit (and apparently what’s tolerable to Americans is not the same as what’s tolerable to Europeans). There are naturally many unknowns about consumption of even trace amounts over decades, and the effects of exposure in children is also a question mark.

Statistically speaking, there was no general difference between canned and plastic-packaged foods, though ph-levels of the food appeared to play some role.

So should we feel safer now, knowing that there’s apparently not much BPA in our food supply? Time to lay off the chemical industry and let them continue to use the substance in what this study suggests is quite responsibly-small amounts that may have negligible health risks?

Photo credit: The author, via flickr