(Beyond Pesticides, June 29, 2017) On June 16, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) decided to classify bisphenol A (BPA) as an endocrine disruptor, and as a substance of “very high concern” due to “probable serious effects to human health.” The classification follows a proposal by the French food security agency (ANSES), which was made earlier this year. The committee, comprised of representatives from all 28 European Union EU countries, agreed to the classification unanimously.
With pressure from environmental groups and others, the European Commission (EC) is working to define scientific criteria that will be used to identify endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and lead to more effective regulation in EU countries. In June 2016, the EC issued weak regulations on endocrine disruptors in pesticide products, undermining the precautionary legal standard that governs pesticide usage in Europe. Many scientists and advocacy organizations criticized the proposed regulations for creating an impossibly high burden of proof for defining harm from endocrine disrupting pesticides and other products.
EDCs contained in common household products such as detergents, disinfectants, furniture, plastics, and pesticides, interfere with the body’s hormone system either by mimicking naturally produced hormones, blocking hormone receptors in cells, or effecting the transport, synthesis, metabolism or excretion of hormones. These impacts can result in devastating effects on one’s health, including behavioral and learning disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), birth defects, obesity, early puberty, infertility, cardiovascular disease, and childhood and adult cancers. Nearly 100 percent of people have detectable amounts of EDCs in their bodies, according to the introductory guide to EDCs published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN.
A 2015 study, which analyzes the economic impact of a number of EDCs, including BPA, found that exposure to endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDC) results in approximately €150 billion ($162 billion) in health care costs in the European Union each year. Results of the study are glaring, and present a grim portrait of the future. The expert panel of scientists agreed on findings of probable causation for EDCs and a number of human diseases, including IQ loss, autism, ADHD, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes, cryptorchidism (undescended testes), male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced testosterone. In 2013, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared EDCs a global health threat. A 2012 study by a group of renowned endocrinologists finds that even low doses of EDCs can influence certain human disorders.
As for the U.S., with similar or higher amounts of pesticide use than the EU, the impact is likely just as great. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required by law to evaluate chemicals for their endocrine disrupting potential, the agency is still in the process of finalizing a screening protocol. The best way to avoid EDCs in your food is to eat organic ingredients and avoid plastic containers and canned food. Read labels carefully to identify cans that are BPA-free. If using a microwave, avoid heating things up in plastic containers, as they are usually treated and compounds can leak into the food.
Beyond Pesticides has previously weighed in on the use of BPA in packaging materials used in organic food packaging, urging the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to seek other alternatives. According to our comments, “BPA poses serious hazards, and Beyond Pesticides supports its elimination from organic food packaging. At the same time, since known alternatives to BPA may also present similar problems, the NOSB should approach the issue of food packaging in a comprehensive way.” The comments then urged the committee to keep this as a priority issue, and requested a technical review on BPA alternatives.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.