Bisphenol A (BPA)
(Last updated April 2012)
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used in the lining of some food and beverage packaging to protect food from contamination and extend shelf life. It’s also used in non-food related products.
People are exposed to BPA because small amounts can migrate into food and beverages from containers.
Reports from some animal studies have raised potential concerns that BPA exposure may cause multiple health problems. However the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that there is no health or safety issue at the levels people are exposed to.
Scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration’s National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) have been studying BPA. Some of their findings include:
- the level of BPA from food that can be passed from pregnant mothers to the fetus is so low it can’t be measured. Researchers fed pregnant rodents 100 to 1000 times more BPA than people are exposed to through food, and could not detect the active form of BPA in the foetus eight hours after the mother’s exposure.
- exposure to BPA in human infants is from 84–92% less than previously estimated
- BPA is rapidly metabolised and eliminated through faeces and urine and there was no evidence of BPA toxicity at low doses in rodent studies, including doses that are still above human exposure levels.
In April 2011, the German Society of Toxicology did a comprehensive review of the safety of BPA and concluded the current tolerable daily intake (TDI) level was justified and that available evidence indicates BPA exposure represents no significant risk to human health, including to babies. More information on the TDI is below.
In December 2011, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) again reviewed recent evidence on BPA. EFSA said this evidence did not change its 2010 opinion that BPA was safe at the levels people are exposed to.
FSANZ has prepared a table responding to some studies on BPA (PDF 186 KB).
What’s the Tolerable Daily Intake?
The tolerable daily intake (or TDI) is an internationally established safe level for chemicals like BPA. It’s a highly conservative estimate of a safe level of BPA which applies to the whole population and estimates the amount of BPA in food that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without appreciable health risk.
In other words it’s the amount that can be safely consumed per day, every day.
Extremely large amounts of foods and beverages would need to be consumed to reach the TDI for BPA. For example, a nine month old baby weighing 9 kg would have to eat more than 1 kg of canned baby custard containing BPA every day to reach the TDI, assuming that the custard contained the highest level of BPA found (420 parts per billion) in a survey by CHOICE.
What are other countries doing?
Because of consumer concerns, some countries and some states in the US have taken action on BPA. Canada, the European Union, and selected US States/Counties have phased-out the use of BPA in some products; however the phase-outs are not supported by the risk assessment conclusions on the safety of BPA.
The Australian Government has introduced a voluntary phase out of BPA use in polycarbonate baby bottles.