BOSTON – In his recommendations to the Joint Select Committee on Regulatory Fairness and Reform posted on Jan. 25, Gov. Paul LePage proposes to reverse the vote taken by the state Board of Environmental Protection to phase out the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s products and instead rely on current federal BPA regulations.

Across Maine and elsewhere, much of the concern regarding BPA in plastic bottles and metal can linings is whether it can leach into food and lead to health risks to fetuses, pregnant women, infants, and children.

The weight of evidence shows that such concerns are not supported by science. BPA has been studied extensively for more than half a century.

The majority of scientists and regulatory bodies have concluded that even under worst case scenarios, including infants drinking from polycarbonate baby bottles, exposures are far below the levels at which no health effects were consistently observed in robust studies involving laboratory animals.

STUDIES ARE INCONCLUSIVE

When the entire body of scientific evidence is analyzed as a whole, one sees that studies purporting to show a specific effect from BPA are inconsistent and sometimes contradictory in their findings, especially when one considers the lack of other effects in those studies and the many other studies that show no association with BPA for that particular effect.

True effects should appear repeatedly among studies, but that is not the case with BPA. This is why examining only a portion of data on BPA can be misleading.

A thorough analysis of the data from all relevant scientific studies clearly and consistently shows that normal human exposure to BPA does not increase the risk of health effects. Based on this, the European Food Safety Authority increased by five-fold the level of BPA it considered safe several years ago.

Health Canada concluded that exposures to newborns and infants up to 18 months of age are below those that could cause health effects. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration also concluded that exposure to BPA from food contact is well below any level that may cause harm, including to infants and small children.

There is no proposed BPA ban anywhere in the world that is based on the premise that BPA causes harm. Rather, such bans are said to be based on the precautionary principle, which demands proof that something is not harmful — essentially demanding the inherent impossibility of proving a negative.

WHAT WOULD WE BAN?

Were that applied in earlier times, it’s possible that we would not have developed airbag propellants, refrigerants to keep our food from spoiling, vaccines for smallpox and polio, and countless other medical, industrial and consumer innovations that improve lives.

The irony of employing the precautionary principle with BPA is that doing so would not be precautionary at all. It would fail to consider the health benefits from its use. BPA is one of the building blocks for shatter-proof polycarbonate plastic and the epoxy resin used to line many metal cans, which is valuable because it prevents bacteria from contaminating food.

Because there is no alternative to BPA for most food packaging applications, the use of a less-tested and less-trusted substance could actually result in a higher risk of food-borne illnesses and death.

Efforts to ban BPA could have serious unintended consequences in Maine and elsewhere. Replacing an extensively tested and demonstrably safe chemical like BPA with a less-tested material creates unnecessary risks for Maine consumers, and could create a risk to public health and safety.

The governor’s proposed reversal of the BPA ban is in the best interest of public health.

– Special to the Press Herald