The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) panel on food contact materials, enzymes, flavorings, and processing aids has released its latest risk assessment for bisphenol A, concluding that there was not any “new evidence which would lead them to revise the current Tolerable Daily Intake [TDI] for BPA of 0.05 mg/kg body weight set… in its 2006 opinion and re-confirmed in its 2008 opinion.” The CEF panel undertook the reassessment at the request of the European Commission, which directed scientists to (i) decide on the basis of recent literature whether to update the TDI; (ii) “assess a new study on possible neurodevelopmental effects”; and (iii) advise on a risk assessment made by the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark.  

Although one minority opinion evidently raised questions about “adverse health effects below the level used to determine the current TDI,” panel members agreed on shortcomings in the animal studies suggesting “biochemical changes in the central nervous system, effects on the immune system and enhanced susceptibility to breast cancer.” In addition, the panel noted some human epidemiological studies that link BPA exposure to coronary heart disease and reproductive disorders, but found “the design of these studies does not allow one to conclude whether BPA is the cause of these health effects.” As the panel concluded, “At present the relevance of these findings for human health cannot be assessed, though should any new relevant data become available in the future, the Panel will reconsider this opinion.”  

In making its assessment, EFSA apparently conferred with European and international authorities, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada and World Health Organization (WHO). It also plans to contribute to a November 2010 expert consultation sponsored by WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Additional details about the consultation can be found in Issue 330 of this Update. See EFSA News Story, September 30, 2010.  

In a related development, Japanese researchers have reportedly measured and reported BPA levels in the atmosphere. F. Pingqing and K. Kawamura, “Ubiquity of bisphenol A in the atmosphere,” Environmental Pollution, October 2010. The study authors collected 260 air samples from “12 cities in India, China, Japan, New Zealand and the U.S.; two rural sites in China and Germany; eight marine areas in the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Sea of Japan and the China Sea; and three polar regions in Canada and the Antarctic,” according to a September 30, 2010, synopsis in Environmental Health News, which noted that densely populated regions of Asia and India showed 10,000 times the BPA levels found in remote polar regions.  

“Researchers believe that BPA enters the air when plastics, electronics and other waste are burned, since the highest concentrations were measured near populated areas and coincided with high levels of other chemicals that are associated with burning plastics,” states the news source. “Manufacturing processes for plastics and other consumer products containing BPA are also thought to be a major source of BPA in the air.”