WARNING: BPA Warning Labels Threaten Public Health

The state of California has extended an emergency rule that allows companies to wait until January 2017 before placing a warning on the label of food packaging containing the chemical Bisphenol A. Supposedly, BPA poses a health risk that demands this warning label, under California’s Proposition 65 law. Rather than place the warning label on the packaging, stores must post signs that BPA may pose health risks and include a link to a website with details.

The reason for this emergency rule is laughable: The warning label itself presents a threat to public health!

How it that possible? The risks of BPA are actually extremely low (basically non-existent), but the warning label may scare people away from eating healthy fruits and veggies found in cans that are lined with BPA-based resins. The resins prevent spoilage and food contamination, which is pretty important. So the warning labels might also cause food manufacturers to abandon BPA for resins that may not protect the food supply as well from deadly pathogens.

This situation highlights the absurdity surrounding this issue and many others related to trace chemicals in the environment.

Myriad government programs and research bodies list chemicals as “carcinogens,” but most of them are largely meaningless because they don’t consider the benefits of the products or the exposure. For example, many chemicals are dubbed carcinogenic because they give rodents cancer when exposed to massive amounts. But those exposures have no relevance to humans exposed to trace amounts. Even apples and carrots give rats cancer when they are force fed such large amounts.

Nonetheless, once a chemical is placed on some dumb list, government regulators push stupid bans or so called “right-to-know” laws such as California’s Proposition 65. Such unwise and dangerous policies are often published thanks to misinformation that activists peddle, including activist researchers whose studies lead to alarmist news stories. And to make matters worse, as I have highlighted in a paper for CEI, the federal government doles out your hard-earned tax dollars to support such activist research.

With all the hype about BPA, even well-meaning journalists include misinformation about it in news stories. For example, in an article on the website LifeZette that addresses fertility issues, the author notes that one possible cause for infertility is human exposure to “endocrine disrupting” manmade chemicals, such as BPA. Specifically, the article notes:

Some evidence points to environmental factors as the cause for diminished female fertility while in vitro. For example, babies exposed to pesticides, herbicides, or certain types of disinfectants could have diminished fertility later in life. Hormone disruptors, such as bisphenol A (or BPA), are prevalent throughout our plastic products and can contribute to endometriosis or other fertility disorders. These chemicals permeate everyday products, from makeup to detergents. Some research has even linked the presence of these chemicals in plastics to the dip in testosterone levels among American men.

Despite all the hype about BPA and other so called “endocrine disrupting” chemicals, there’s no hard evidence that they have any impact on human health. In fact, there is much more evidence that BPA, which people consume in trace amounts from plastic food containers and tin cans lined with BPA resins, is quickly metabolized and passed out the body in urine. It also worth noting that human exposure to so called “hormonally active” industrial chemicals are simply too low to have an effect. Humans are exposed to far more naturally forming “hormonally active chemicals” in many foods such as soy, that are thousands of times more potent, but even those pose negligible risk.

Unfortunately, such misinformation has adverse impacts by leading lawmakers to push bans on useful chemicals like BPA. And ironically, California regulators now find themselves in a position whereby their warning labels are the thing that poses the real risk to human health.