For Immediate Release
BPA Disrupts Fetal Development
Canned-food makers urged to remove BPA from cans to reduce pregnant women’s #1 route of exposure
SAN FRANCISCO - The toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA), found in most canned foods on our supermarket shelves, disrupts fetal development and sets the stage for later-life diseases, including breast cancer, according to the Breast Cancer Fund’s just-released comprehensive review of the scientific literature on prenatal BPA exposure.
“The report summarizes more than 60 peer-reviewed animal and human studies on prenatal BPA exposure, many of which demonstrate increased risk for breast cancer, prostate cancer, metabolic changes, decreased fertility, early puberty, neurological problems and immunological changes,” said Sharima Rasanayagam, Ph.D., director of science at the Breast Cancer Fund and co-author of the report. “It also explores why the developing fetus is particularly sensitive to the effects of BPA—especially during the first 11 weeks of pregnancy, when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant.”
For the past decade, efforts to restrict BPA have focused on another critical window of exposure—early childhood—and BPA is now banned from baby bottles and infant formula packaging. But the science is now showing that fetal exposure to BPA is of even greater concern, spurring public health advocates to refocus on protecting women who are or may become pregnant.
“Eating food from cans, which are coated with BPA, is a major route of human exposure,” explained Gretchen Lee Salter, senior program and policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund, co-author of the report and expecting mom. “To protect every woman who’s pregnant or may become pregnant, the only logical solution is to remove BPA from all canned foods.”
Marisa C. Weiss, M.D., founder and president of Breastcancer.org, concurs that fetal BPA exposure is a serious concern. "We know that a baby growing in utero is laying down the foundation for her future breast health and the cell damage from prenatal chemical exposure can lead to a higher risk of cancer later in life," said Dr. Weiss. "We need to take decisive steps to lower chemical exposures-especially during pregnancy."
If the science is revealing the harmful effects of prenatal exposure to BPA, then why is the chemical still widely in use? Because regulation and business practices have not caught up with the science. While many canned-food manufacturers have committed to eliminating BPA, no major company has given a precise timeline, nor are they labeling products in the meantime to warn consumers about the presence of the chemical in cans. Although the FDA recently banned BPA from infant formula cans in response to a citizen petition filed by then Rep. (now Sen.) Ed Markey (D-Mass.), there are no state or federal regulations prohibiting BPA from canned foods intended for the general population. This year, six states considered bills that would have required the labeling or an outright ban of BPA in canned food; none passed. When Markey was in the House, he introduced legislation that would ban BPA from all food packaging. In May, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced Senate legislation that would require labeling of food packaging containing BPA.
Since its launch in 2011, the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans Not Cancer campaign has been calling on major canned-food companies and their brands, including Campbell’s, Del Monte, Progresso and Healthy Choice, to stop using BPA. And while many companies have responded by indicating their intention to go BPA-free, no major manufacturer has set a timeline or been transparent about proposed alternatives. With the release of this report, the Breast Cancer Fund is repeating and strengthening its demand that these companies get out of BPA so that every woman who is or may become pregnant is protected.
“We can’t place yet another burden on pregnant women by giving them the nearly impossible job of avoiding BPA,” said Salter. “We have to get BPA out of food cans. We have to protect everyone—including the next generation—from the toxic effects of BPA.”
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