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Canada Government Science

Plastic Chemical BPA Declared Toxic In Canada 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-thing-it's-not-toxic-here dept.
Julie188 writes "The Canadian government has formally declared bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used to create clear, hard plastics, as well as food can liners, to be a toxic substance. Does this mean that you'll be tackled by the Canadian Mounties if you stroll around with some bottled water? Not exactly. Being a toxic chemical doesn't mean you can't get a little love. The government will at first try and set limits on how much BPA can be released into the air or water by factories that use the compound."
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Plastic Chemical BPA Declared Toxic In Canada

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  • by dskoll (99328) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @08:30PM (#33920978)

    So, our wonderful government declares BPA toxic, while at the same time continuing to deny asbestos's toxicity and exporting asbestos to the rest of the world.

    It's all domestic politics. Banning asbestos would annoy Quebec, the major producer...

    • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @08:40PM (#33921016) Homepage
      I had gathered that asbestos is perfectly safe and fine as long as it stays out of your lungs; it's a physical contaminant, not a chemical one. (Am I wrong?) BPA contamination has the potential to be much more insidious.
      • by Khyber (864651)

        Everything not a singular element is a chemical compound of some sort or another.

        • The point is that it's not something that's going to interact with your lungs in a chemical way. It's going to have the same exact effect as any other fine particulate substance when airborne.
          • by fnj (64210) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @09:58PM (#33921338)

            Not exactly. Asbestos particles, when inhaled chronically, lead to mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is not lung cancer; it is a cancer of the pleura which cover the lungs. Asbestos particles, because of their form and other characteristics are especially capable of piercing the alveoli and reaching the pleura. Asbestos particles are only 3,000-20,000 nm long, and only 10 nm in diameter (a human hair is 17,000-180,000 nm in diameter; a red blood cell is 8,000 nm in diameter). Only rarely does exposure to any other substance lead to mesothelioma. Smoking, and exposure to other types of particulates, preponderantly leads to forms of lung cancer rather than mesothelioma.

            • That really doesn't make it a toxin. That's a physical characteristic, doing physical damage to the lung.

              You're right that those physical characteristics are somewhat unique, and thus cause somewhat unique symptoms, but that doesn't make asbestos a toxin. It's not some chemical, like BPA, that interacts on a molecular level, where that chemical interaction causes cancer.

              • by fnj (64210)

                Absolutely. We should all be clear that the tissue insult is physical, not chemical.

              • by Grishnakh (216268)

                Exactly. It'd be a little like declaring a sharp knife to be a "toxin". A sharp knife can be very dangerous to your body's tissues, since it can easily slice you open, but it's not a toxin, just a physical object that happens to have a sharp edge.

                • by dskoll (99328)

                  Whatever the mechanism by which asbestos damages your lungs, this is the real hypocrisy: Asbestos is strictly regulated in Canada, but Canada exports the stuff for use in countries with lax or no regulation.

                  • by Grishnakh (216268)

                    Is that hypocrisy? Canada can't control the laws in other countries, and asbestos still has many valid uses, as long as it's handled properly. Nitroglycerin is dangerous too, but handled properly is very useful. Is someone a "hypocrite" for exporting explosives to countries with lax regulation for use in demolitions?

                    If Canada refused to export to countries without strict regulation, how well do you think that's going to go over diplomatically? That's basically insulting the purchasing country.

                    • by dskoll (99328)

                      Is someone a "hypocrite" for exporting explosives to countries with lax regulation for use in demolitions?

                      Yes, absolutely.

                      If Canada refused to export to countries without strict regulation, how well do you think that's going to go over diplomatically?

                      People's health and wellbeing is more important than diplomacy, and if countries with lax regulation feel "insulted", well... too bad.

                    • Well then any foreign gun manufacturers should refuse to export to America where criminal gun violence is so rampant.

                      Japan and Germany must also also be hypocrites for exporting cars to the US, which mandates relatively pathetic levels of driver training and car maintenance.

            • I guess I should get rid of my asbestos mattress eh? Oh well, I'm sorry.
      • by hedwards (940851)
        The problem is that it's very, very hard to keep it out of the air. Yes, as long as you don't breathe it in you're fine, it's just that it's very difficult to avoid and you have to be very careful not to disturb it.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Mashiki (184564)

          Actually it's very easy to keep it out of the air. Asbestos is like glass, once you break it, you get explosive contamination of it, with shards everywhere. Otherwise it's a cheap, effective, and very useful material.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cheater512 (783349)

            And how much glass is broken on any given day?
            If glass was carcinogenic when broken, it too would be illegal to use.

            • by Mashiki (184564)

              We use it every day, it's called 'pink' or fiberglass. And it's just as dangerous as asbestos when not used with proper breathing equipment.

              • Thats what scares me. Fiberglass insulation was invented to replace 'dangerous' asbestos insulation, and of course, its just as harmful. Can you say 'failure to recognize the problem' ?
                • by Mashiki (184564)

                  The real problem is that any good isolation is made up of small particulate matter(asbestos, fiberglass, blown cellulose), or is made from toxic chemicals(spray foam of all types). There's no real way to get around the whole 'toxic while applying' but there are ways to mitigate the damage it can cause you while you're applying it.

                  Even back in the 30's through to the 50's they knew asbestos wasn't really good for you. The solution then was to use asbestos weave(bandage), which was soaked or sprayed with wa

      • by Da_Biz (267075)

        I had gathered that asbestos is perfectly safe and fine as long as it stays out of your lungs

        Essentially, yes. Too much of that--or the oft-feared Dihydrogen Monoxide--can kill you.

    • by tomhudson (43916)
      Nah, we replaced asbestos with poutine long ago.

      Now, instead of killing people with toxic fibers in the air, we clog up their arteries instead.

      Seriously, there was one study done on asbestos exposure to miners, and it turned out that the miners who smoked were 900 TIMES more likely to get lung problems.

    • by macraig (621737) <mark DOT a DOT craig AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 16, 2010 @09:47PM (#33921288)

      Political asbestos maneuverings are indeed serpentine, aren't they?

    • I think the reason for the BPA toxic classification stems from the Canadian governments agenda to use Maple Syrup as an alternative in plastic manufacturing.

      I would expect similar measures put on the manufacturing of Asbestos following a solid breakthrough in the research and development of maplebestos.

    • by geogob (569250)

      The problem with asbestos is not the material itself. It was how it was used and the conditions in which it was produced. The ban and fear of asbestos was purely emotional and political. Of course, I agree that it still requires proper toxicity and hazard classification to ensure proper handling. I do not know the current status of asbestos regarding hazardous material classification.

      A nice parallel we could make is the one with lead, although lead is much more dangerous than asbestos. It has some very impo

      • by vlm (69642)

        But for some reason, the political playground pushed for a total ban of the product, regardless of its handling, usage or type (because, yes, there are different types of asbestos having different effects when exposed to it).

        Impractical, for example, unless you magically train and regulate all illegal alien construction workers and demolition workers...

        • by geogob (569250)

          So instead of properly identifying the risk of a product and for which applications it is suited or not, we should totally ban it because illegal alien construction workers may be put in arms way due to the use of the product over 3 decades ago? Amazing logic.

          This is exactly the kind of logic, thoughts and statement we should keep out of product regulation processes.

  • by janvo (639733) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @08:35PM (#33920994) Journal
    This is definitely a step in the right direction. BPA is a risk to the entire population and it's use is very widespread. It disrupts our hormonal system and has now been linked to different types of breast cancer, heart disease and endocrine disorders. It also affects our reproductive systems. People really need to be aware that the use of plastics containing BPA is harmful and that use of this substance is currently ubiquitous throughout the world.
    • Oddly enough Thermal Receipts have the most BPA. Something like a 1000 x as much as you would get from a water bottle.

      If you get a receipt and then eat your burger is the receipt a food product regulated in the same way you might regulate a plastic fork?

      In Canada regulation will all depend on if the receipt paper is made in Quebec or near Ottawa.
      • by baegucb (18706) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @01:12AM (#33922006)

        Oddly enough, I usually don't eat the receipt.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by TermV (49182)

          Bisphenol A is a coating painted on thermal paper that readily comes off onto your hands and will transfer onto anything you touch. This stuff must be coating everything near the cash registers at your local supermarket. There's apparently 60-100mg of Bisphenol A on the average receipt. At least in polycarbonate it's bonded into the plastic and doesn't just come out.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by IICV (652597)

          But you touch it, and then eat with your hands without washing them because hey it's just a receipt. If the concentration is high enough, this can matter.

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      It also affects our reproductive systems. People really need to be aware that the use of plastics containing BPA is harmful and that use of this substance is currently ubiquitous throughout the world.

      Given that our world is overpopulated, and the population is growing rapidly, would it really be such a bad thing if our reproductive systems were dampened a little? And I actually am not trying to be funny here. I'm somewhat half serious. Would mankind be better off if we started having fewer babies?

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        Not this way. The parent said BPA "has now been linked to different types of breast cancer, heart disease and endocrine disorders." Any benefit you might get from slowing reproduction down a little will be much more than made up for by these other health problems.

        If you want to find some insidious chemical to limit reproduction, find something that doesn't hurt peoples' health in other ways. We need a population that is stable, yet healthy. We spend way too much on healthcare as it is, as a society.

      • by compro01 (777531)

        We already do have fewer babies. Birthrates in almost all of the western world (Europe, Canada, and the US) are below replacement rate. The only reason the above countries are experiencing population growth is immigration. Some countries, such as Germany, Japan, and Russia, are currently experiencing negative population growth.

      • Even if a few venues of baby production shut down supply and demand will kick in and the market will move to fill the void. I doubt that the total number of babies produced each year will really drop. They will just take more to get. Though that could result in easier governmental caps or controls. If the number of suppliers is lessened.
    • I just hope that there's a decent alternative to it. Lead-free solder didn't work out quite like the leaded stuff. However, from what I understand (and I may be wrong), BPA is only released from plastics when heated past a certain point. As such, a water bottle isn't going to hurt you unless you leave it baking in your car all day. Dishwashers are probably fine as they're rinsing the things out when the bottles are heated, so you'd have very little BPA left when it was done. I think the big concern was baby
    • and you will find their sewage ducts, waterways, roadsides, well...everywhere actually choked with BPA plastic bags and food containers. Standard practice is to just burn the stuff, but it usually causes localized flooding disease first. Oh yea, the ocean is full of the stuff too. Aren't we humans a wonderful species?
  • I hope Brita comes out with a glass pitcher...
    • by pz (113803) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @08:45PM (#33921050) Journal

      I hope Brita comes out with a glass pitcher...

      I'm pretty certain they'll come out with a BPA-free plastic version instead, since that's all the rage in bottles and food containers for infants.

      Personally, I'd be happy to have a world free of BPA. Unfortunately, that's going to be very difficult as it's found in many common items. For some, there are plastics that are good alternatives, but others, it will be some time before alternates can be found. In particular, epoxy binders used wood-based sheet goods production (particle board, chip board, flooring, etc.) are bad and are going to be around for a long time since there is so much of it installed.

      My family and I have stopped eating anything that comes in a can. Not only are cans typically lined with BPA-bearing plastics, but the contents are in intimate contact for a very long time. Avoiding canned foods has been pretty easy with one exception: canned tomatoes. If anyone has a good solution for those, I'd love to hear it.

      • by adonoman (624929) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @09:48PM (#33921294)
        You'd have have a bigger reduction of BPA intake by making sure you wash your hand every time you handle a thermal printed receipt. [sciencenews.org]
      • by socsoc (1116769)
        Canned tomatoes? Have your taste buds fallen off? Can em yourself in jars if you're planning for some nuclear winter.
        • by pz (113803)

          Canned tomatoes? Have your taste buds fallen off? Can em yourself in jars if you're planning for some nuclear winter.

          I cook. A lot. About 5-6 dinners per week for my family (yes, married with kid --- geeks can get lucky) plus lunches on weekends. Many recipes work best with canned tomatoes, and tomato paste. Tomato pasta sauce would be an alternative, since it's nominally available in glass jars still, but what we've been able to find in our area is a lot more than just tomatoes so can't be used in many recipes. That is, unless you want your chicken cacciatore, briam, or arni kokkinisto to taste like pasta sauce (hin

          • by socsoc (1116769)

            Here's a protip: you are way less cool than you think you are. Recipes with canned ingredients and everything. Although it sounds like you've already arrived at my suggestion, so thanks for coming out.

            I'll continue buying tomatoes of varying freshness from CSA to farmer market to nice grocery store to ghetto grocery store all season till they repeat per your enlightened holy schedule... And 90% will rot before I use em.

          • by Nursie (632944)

            Ignore the weirdos, normal people use canned tomatoes all the time. In the UK you can now get chopped tomatoes in cardboard cartons, so that's one option if you can find that. Also lookout for Passata and/or sugocasa, usually in large glass jars though may cost a little more.

          • by worf_mo (193770)

            It's possible, although difficult, to find tomato paste in glass jars, but I haven't found a good alternative for canned tomatoes.

            Here in Italy you can buy tomatoes in glass bottles or jars from a variety of brands and with differing consistency (from a very liquid sauce to little cubes), and usually they contain tomato only, no extra ingredients or flavoring. You can look for "salsa di pomodoro", "passata di pomodoro" or "pomodori pelati" on amazon.com to get an idea. Hopefully you can find some similar local products from your area until you get the chance to make your own.

            We usually make our own once a year and keep them in jars, a

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bzipitidoo (647217)

        One other major use of BPA you may not know about is as a coating on sales slips. BPA is easily absorbed from these coatings just by handling them without gloves. For shoppers, the exposure is not much, but for someone working a cash register all day, it's a problem.

        The sickest part of all this is that we guessed BPA could be trouble as far back as the 1930s! It's frightening how special interests have managed to keep these rather important safety questions from being answered for almost 80 years. BPA

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Sorry, I have to disagree about executive pay. While I think it's ridiculous when CEOs are giving hundreds of millions in bonuses or salaries, those are privately-owned companies, and they're free to (over)pay as much as they want to. The last thing we need is the government telling people how much money they can pay each other.

          If you want to do something about executive compensation, get government out of the business of favoring big companies (and bailing them out when they fail due to their own incompe

          • No I do not advocate having the government just arbitrarily cap executive pay. However, threatening to do so might be useful. And might not be. That sort of thing is exactly the wrong move, as it gives credence to all the screaming over government interference. One area of government interference I'd love to seen the end of is patents.

            Another idea, to make companies put pay packages up for a vote with all the stockholders, has some promise. Employees should have a say as well, and it seems the only w

            • by Grishnakh (216268) on Sunday October 17, 2010 @12:37PM (#33924480)

              but outsiders so seldom win office (the most recent one I can think of is Ventura in Minnesota), that I feel it's usually better to try for the lesser of the 2 evils than throw my vote away on a futile protest.

              This is exactly the mentality that prevents outsiders from ever winning office. If you vote for evil, then you will surely get evil.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by sunspot42 (455706)

            While I think it's ridiculous when CEOs are giving hundreds of millions in bonuses or salaries, those are privately-owned companies, and they're free to (over)pay as much as they want to.

            Yes. And then their overpaid executards buy off Congress, loot their companies and run them into the ground, wreck the economy and demand trillion dollar bailouts funded by people who actually do productive work.

            So no, letting a bunch of obvious crooks and psychopaths steal all they want doesn't actually work in practice.

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Yes. And then their overpaid executards buy off Congress, loot their companies and run them into the ground, wreck the economy and demand trillion dollar bailouts funded by people who actually do productive work.

              Right; if you have a problem with that, you need to take it up with Congress (by voting better), so that wrecked companies are not bailed out at all. No failed company should EVER be bailed out by the government; there is simply no good reason for it, and it only rewards failure and mismanagement.

              S

      • by yanos (633109)
        If it's to make some tomato sauce, try some of these, they're in a glass bottle: http://magasin.iga.net/Search/BasicSearch.aspx?Search=coulis%20de%20tomate [iga.net]
      • I'd be less worried about the difficult to get rid of things. Why do we need to worry about those? Chemical bans really need to be doing cost benefit analysis, tax rather than ban to automate the process. If we get rid of BPA in all the low hanging fruit we'll have gotten rid of 99% of the BPA we come into contact with. The last 1% will likely cost 5x as much to get rid of as the first 99%, there is no point in doing so. Perhaps a hard ban in food packaging and children's toys.

        http://www.heyamy.com/blog/ [heyamy.com]
        • by pz (113803)

          You have any references for those numbers?

          • Bottles and containers have readily available alternatives... And the other part of my statement was based on yours.... "For some, there are plastics that are good alternatives, but others, it will be some time before alternates can be found. In particular, epoxy binders used wood-based sheet goods production (particle board, chip board, flooring, etc.) are bad and are going to be around for a long time since there is so much of it installed."

            It seems pretty obvious that there would be varying levels of re
  • You already can't bring bottled water into an airport anyway; this won't make any difference. :P

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AK Marc (707885)
      I bring in empty bottles of bottled water so that I can fill them at the fountain once I'm in. That way I have the convenience of bottled water without having to pay for one at airport pricing. I've never had a problem with that. So there's nothing that would prevent someone from taking in their empty bottle or buying it in the airport and taking it to Canada that way.
      • by Abstrackt (609015)
        I do the same, though because I use a metal bottle security does occasionally want to see inside it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 16, 2010 @08:42PM (#33921032)

    Fine, Canada. We're going to declare Justin Bieber a toxic substance.

    Your move.

  • Do not eat the bottle.
    • Do not eat the bottle.

      All plastics, including BPA-free varities, leach into liquids stored into them, even though they are often made of multiple layers of plastic with different properties designed to prevent this. Period, the end.

      As a wise man who was once a physics professor at UCLA said to me, I don't trust plastics. They look a little too much like hormones.

    • by zacronos (937891)

      Do not eat the bottle.

      Or perhaps:
      Do not eat bottle with remaining mouth.

  • by Wilson of Waste (1909510) on Saturday October 16, 2010 @09:28PM (#33921190)
    It has been known and banned in many other parts of the world. I don't even think the USA has done anything about it though. If you avoid number 3 plastics you have no BPA worries. That means number 1, 2, 4, 5, and six are BPA free. Just thought everyone would like to know
  • What criteria is Canada using for "toxic"? Because anything in large amounts is sufficiently toxic to human beings (water is toxic if drunk in large amounts over a short period of time). Most medications are toxic to small children because their bodies can't handle the concentrations. Normally the LD50 is used as a criteria of how toxic a substance is. Bisphenol A is now known to be an endocrine disruptor (like PCBs and DDT). Is that the criteria?
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      I realise reading is hard, but:

      """
      This includes substances
      * that were found to meet the categorization criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation potential and inherent toxicity to non-human organisms, and that are known to be in commerce, or of commercial interest, in Canada; these substances are considered to be high priorities for assessment of ecological risk; and/or
      * that were found either to meet the categorization criteria for greatest potential for exposure of Canadians or to present an intermediate

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      Section 64 of CEPA 1999 defines a substance as toxic "if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that: have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity; constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends; or constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health." That's the definition they use. It is up to the government to determine what is a "long-t
    • I agree wholeheartedly that the summary is not very fine, and the word 'toxic' out of context is meaningless.

      In this case it is a designation that means that the chemical will be regulated by the CEPA. It has nothing to do with a finding of actual toxicity at some particular level, only that there will be regulations issued to control exposure to BPA, primarily occupational exposure in this case since of course that's where the greatest risk is.

      In reality there is no particular evidence that current US EPA

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 16, 2010 @10:54PM (#33921548)

    or was it just misheard, maybe they wanted to ban BP Eh

  • Does anyone out there know what kinds of concentrations of BPA start causing (significant) harm to humans and how it compares to what you get from plastic bottles? Whenever I hear about the horrors of BPA, my inner cynic tells me that it's the new secondhand smoke.

  • but the vast oceans of residue from tar sands mining has now been proven both nutritious and delicious, eh!

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