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WHO Pins BPA Exposure on Food

 The primary way humans are exposed to bisphenol A (BPA) is though food, said a panel convened by the World Health Organization (WHO), which also stated that any "public health measures" are premature.

More than 30 international experts were brought together for the meeting organized by the WHO earlier this month to review BPA, a chemical that mimics estrogen and has been linked to a range of development and reproductive problems, diabetes and other health issues.

The WHO said the panel concluded that BPA is getting into humans mainly through food and drinks, meaning the chemical is passing from packaging like certain hard plastics and epoxy can liners into food they're in contact with. Other exposure sources, like thermal receipt paper and dental sealants, are less important, the WHO said.

The panel also compared studies that measured BPA levels in urine and estimates of how much BPA people take in through food and drink, and modeled how much BPA circulates through human bodies.

Since the amount circulating was seen as low, the panel said that indicates that BPA does not accumulate in people, but is eliminated quickly. That also appears to indicate, though, that since low levels are so frequently detected in humans, that people are continually exposed to BPA through various sources.

In looking at levels of BPA, the panel also reviewed studies that connected low levels of BPA with health problems, but said it is difficult to determine how relevant the studies are, with the WHO stating, "Until these associations can be confirmed, initiation of public health measures would be premature."

That runs counter to the argument from others who say that the Precautionary Principle should be followed regarding BPA, and that the chemical should only be used in cases where it is proven safe. The German Federal Environment Agency, for example, cited the Precautionary Principle in recommending that companies switch away from BPA, and five companies that makes canned goods (Campbell Soup, ConAgra, Hain Celestial, Sara Lee and Whole Foods) have said the precautionary principle is one of the factors driving their transition away from BPA in packaging.

BPA has already been voluntarily removed from some products, primarily hard water bottles and children's food and drink products, by some manufacturers and retailers, and it has been banned in some uses by Canada, Australia, Denmark, and some states and local governments in the United States.

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