Bisphenol A research and monitoring activities
The Government of Canada assessed the risks of bisphenol A (BPA) to both human health and the environment as part of its Chemicals Management Plan. The screening assessment considered health risks to Canadians of all ages and determined the general public does not need to be concerned. The greatest risk is to newborns and infants up to 18 months of age. This group may be exposed to levels of bisphenol A that are close to exposure levels where effects have been observed in animal studies.
The ecological assessment shows that there is the potential for long-term adverse effects to organisms from bisphenol A. These effects can occur at levels that can currently be found in the environment close to point sources, such as municipal wastewater treatment plants.
As a result of the screening assessment, the Government of Canada is the first in the world to take action on bisphenol A. Based on our current knowledge, the Government has proposed risk management strategies to reduce exposure to BPA to protect infants, children and the environment.
The Government also recognizes there are key knowledge gaps and has identified several areas in the screening assessment where further research is needed. To address these knowledge gaps, Canada is investing in a research and monitoring plan for BPA. This research will continue to inform the decision-making process so that the science continues to develop in a rigorous and reliable way. The Government of Canada will continue to assess the implications of new research findings on BPA and will take further action if warranted.
The human health related research plan focuses on fetal exposure to BPA, as well as additional research into how BPA interacts with humans' biological systems. Environment-related research will focus on monitoring and analysis of BPA in water in order to better understand the levels of BPA in the environment.
Below is a list of studies being undertaken by the Government to fill key knowledge gaps in both Canadian and international scientific research on BPA.
Biomonitoring to determine current levels in Canadians:
These studies will provide information on exposure to environmental contaminants including BPA during pregnancy and early infancy. Monitoring will also be done to establish current levels of BPA in the Canadian population (as measured in urine).
- MIREC (Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals) study
MIREC is a national five-year research study that is recruiting about 2,000 pregnant women from cities across Canada. The three main goals of the study are 1) to measure the extent to which pregnant women and their babies are exposed to chemical substances; 2) to measure some of the beneficial constituents in human breast milk; and 3) to assess what pregnancy health risks, if any, are associated with heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and manganese). Other chemical substances that will be measured include plasticizers (including BPA), persistent organic pollutants, brominated flame retardants, surfactants and by-products from cigarette smoking.
- Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS)
The CHMS collects key information relevant to the health of Canadians, in the form of direct physical measurements such as blood pressure, blood and urine sampling and physical fitness testing. Under this survey, urine samples are being collected and analysed for a number of different classes of chemical substances, including BPA, in order to establish baseline levels present in the Canadian population. There will also be a questionnaire for each respondent to record any possible habits which could be related to exposure to these chemical substances.
- Plastics and Personal-care Product use in Pregnancy
This study will measure BPA and phthalates in the urine of pregnant women throughout the day as well as over time. A questionnaire will attempt to identify any potential sources for these chemical substances. The results will help us better understand exposure to these substances over time, and will indicate how representative one-time urine tests are for detecting these substances, as well as how the levels of substances change over time.
Studies to improve estimates of exposure to Canadians:
Several studies address data gaps for levels of exposure from food sources and other day-to-day activities.
- Canadian Total Diet Survey
Since 1969, Health Canada has conducted Total Diet Studies to estimate the levels of chemical substances to which Canadians in different age-sex groups are exposed through the food supply. The current cycle will also determine levels of BPA in about 150 mixtures prepared from foods commonly consumed by general Canadian populations.
- Targeted survey of BPA in packaged drink products
These targeted surveys will investigate levels of BPA in water products packaged in a variety of ways (glass, different plastics, cans, PC, etc.) as well as canned soft drink products sold in Canada.
- Targeted surveys of BPA in infant formula and food products
These surveys will investigate the levels of BPA in canned liquid infant formula and powdered infant formula products sold in Canada. Infant foods in glass jars will be tested as well due to potential migration of BPA from coatings on the metal caps.
- Dietary exposure of young children to plasticizers and emerging persistent organic pollutants (POPs)
Frequently consumed infant and young children's foods will be selected, purchased, and prepared for consumption. The foods will then be analyzed for a range of plasticizers (BPA and phthalates) and emerging persistent organic pollutants (including perfluorinated compounds and brominated flame retardants).
- Canadian House Dust Study
The Canadian House Dust Study is a four-year, four-phased national study being conducted by Health Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada participated in the study's first phase. The entire study aims to collect dust samples from up to 1,040 randomly selected detached homes, spread across 13 cities in Canada to measure background levels of chemical substances in house dust. BPA is one of the chemical substances being tested.
Studies to better understand effects on human health:
Several other research projects will look at different aspects of BPA and focus on key gaps in the scientific knowledge.
- Species differences in BPA metabolism
This study is looking at the differences between humans and rats by comparing the way their intestines and livers process BPA. This study will inform the use of results from rat studies with BPA to approximate potential human effects of BPA exposure.
- Developmental mechanisms of BPA action: Role of cell surface receptors
This study will focus on developing knowledge about a set of less well-understood cell surface receptors which respond to estrogen and estrogen-like substances, such as BPA. Recent studies suggest these receptors respond strongly to BPA exposure. It is possible that if these receptors are the main target of BPA action, it could change any effects of BPA exposure during development.
- Investigation of the genomic and nongenomic mechanisms underlying the "low dose effects" of Bisphenol A
This study will look at the interaction of BPA with biological systems at a cellular level. This study will look at a different set of estrogen-related receptors (ERRs), using human cell cultures. The ERRs are found on the surface of a cell's nucleus and are very active in embryonic development. The results of the study will clarify whether certain aspects of embryonic development may be at risk if BPA exposure occurs.
Ongoing studies to obtain estimates of exposure to the environment:
In addition to the above studies, BPA is being included in the following studies to further our knowledge of environmental levels and possible sources of exposure.
- National Pollutant Release Inventory
The NPRI is Canada's legislated, publicly-accessible inventory of pollutants released, disposed of and sent for recycling by facilities across the country. Industrial, institutional and commercial facilities which meet legislative NPRI reporting requirements notify Environment Canada of any releases of substances of concern.
- National Survey of Disinfection By-Products and Selected New and Emerging Contaminants in Canadian Drinking Water
Water collected from water treatment sites across Canada will be analyzed for the presence of a number of chemical substances, including BPA.
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