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BPA: Is it safe or isn't it?

Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension


A University of Missouri researcher joins researchers at other universities and consumer advocates in disputing Food and Drug Administration conclusions that plastic used in food containers is safe.


Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is a chemical used to make plastic food and beverage containers, dental sealants and the resin lining in cans. Currently, the FDA which is responsible for assuring the safety of food packaging, has concluded that exposure to BPA from food-grade plastics is below levels that may impact health.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed urine samples of 2,517 people ages 6 and over who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004 (NHANES). Scientists detected BPA in the urine of nearly 93% of the people. Children had higher BPA levels than adults.


In a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) editorial, Frederick S. vom Saal (University of Missouri) and John Peterson Myers state that researchers at the University found a “significant relationship between urine concentrations of BPA and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and liver enzyme abnormalities in the US population.” This study was based on information from NHANES 2003-2004. The researchers said this is enough information to make follow-up studies a priority.


The same JAMA article states that an expert panel, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, other government agency reports and the Canadian Ministry of Health all agree that exposure to BPA during development puts the fetus and infant more at risk for negative effects. Scientists believe BPA can act like the hormone estrogen. In animal studies, estrogen has been linked to breast, prostate and other reproductive system problems as well as some cancers.


Canada has declared BPA a toxic chemical and is aggressively acting to limit human and environmental exposure. Many American researchers and consumer advocates are pushing for similar measures in the United States.


According to an Associated Press article published Sept. 16, the Food and Drug Administration was recommending no change in habits as they relate to BPA exposure. A FDA representative did say that people could lower their exposure to BPA by avoiding plastic containers with the recycling number ‘7’ as many of those contain BPA. People could also refrain from warming food in those containers as heat helps release the chemical, he said.

Examples of the types of plastics that contain BPA are refillable drink containers, plastic eating utensils, baby bottles, and re-usable food containers. It is not found in the plastic water and soda bottles.




Last Updated 05/05/2009




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