On April 19, 2008, Environment Canada and Health Canada
recommended that the industrial chemical bisphenol A
("BPA") be classified as "toxic" under the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
("CEPA"). The recommendation was made public by way of a
Notice in the Canada Gazette summarizing the scientific
considerations of a draft screening assessment report on BPA. Press
reports earlier in the week had suggested that the federal
government was set to make the recommendation.
The federal government's review of BPA is part of its
Chemicals Management Plan initiative. The Plan, which was
introduced in 2006, was designed to review the safety of the more
than 23,000 chemicals that have been used in the Canadian
marketplace for many years. BPA was one of the first substances
assessed under the Chemicals Management Plan.
BPA is used to make a hard, clear plastic known as
polycarbonate, which in turn is used to make a number of common
consumer products, including reusable water bottles, baby bottles,
pitchers, tableware and storage containers. It can also be found in
epoxy resins, which act as a protective coating on the inside of
metal-based food and beverage cans. The concern is that BPA may be
released when the plastics are heated.
The draft screening assessment report proposes that BPA be
considered a substance that "may be entering the environment
in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that constitute
or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."
This forms the basis for the federal government's official
recommendation that BPA be classified as "toxic". Once a
substance has been designated as toxic and has been placed on the
Toxic Substances List (Schedule 1 to CEPA), the federal government
has a duty to put in place regulatory measures to manage the safety
issues. This can include a ban on the sale, importation and/or
manufacture of BPA in Canada.
Measures being contemplated by the federal government in
relation to BPA were set out in a draft "Risk Management
Scope" document that was released contemporaneously with the
assessment report. Highlights of this draft risk management
If the final screening risk assessment report concludes that
BPA is toxic, but is not a candidate for complete elimination, risk
management would focus on: (a) the potential for releases of BPA
into infant formula from epoxy resin lined cans; and (b) the
potential for releases of BPA from polycarbonate plastic baby
bottles. The federal government will move to prohibit the
importation, sale and advertising of polycarbonate baby
The federal government proposes to adopt a precautionary
approach for BPA in food packaging in order to minimize the
exposure of susceptible populations newborns and infants to the
substance. This would be done for both new and existing food
packaging. The federal government will support manufacturers in the
assessment of suitable replacement options for BPA. With regard to
existing food packaging, the Government proposes to engage industry
in the creation and implementation of a "voluntary code of
practice" to help reduce levels of the substance in infant
The exposure assessment in the draft screening assessment
report indicates that exposure from all sources of BPA to the
general population is low and that most uses of products containing
the substance pose little risk to Canadians. As a result, the
Government does not intend to take risk management actions at this
time for the following uses: automotive parts, dental materials,
twocomponent epoxy adhesives, optical lenses, polycarbonate water
bottles and other containers.
The Government has a initiated a 60-day public comment period
(i.e., until June 18, 2008) during which any person may file with
the Minister of the Environment written comments on the draft
screening assessment and the measures being contemplated by the
federal government. After considering comments received during the
60-day period, the federal government will make a final
determination as to whether BPA is "toxic", and commence
the process of managing the risks attributed to BPA.
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