Controversial Plastic Chemical Is in Canned Food, Too

Bisphenol A is used in the liners of some cans that keep food from spoiling.

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There's been another surge of negative news about bisphenol A in the past few days. Wal-Mart has decided to ditch baby bottles containing the controversial chemical, which is used to make polycarbonate plastic, after the National Toxicology Program expressed "some concern" about bisphenol A (BPA). And Canada's national health agency said on Friday it is taking steps toward limiting the chemical.

What's odd is that we've heard so much about plastic water bottles and baby bottles and so little about bisphenol A and canned foods. According to the Environmental Working Group, cans are the primary source of human exposure to the chemical. (Most metal food cans have plastic linings that prevent spoilage but are rich in bisphenol A.) Numerous studies support the environmental advocacy group's notion that cans are key if you're trying to avoid bisphenol A. A study published in 2007, for example, found that 99 percent of children's exposure to BPA occurs through food. After the Environmental Working Group tested 97 name-brand canned goods, it concluded that 1 in 3 infant food cans, and 1 in 10 food cans overall, contains enough BPA to expose a woman or infant to levels more than 200 times the government's traditional safe level for industrial chemicals.

"The bulk of BPA exposure definitely comes from food," says Jovana Ruzicic, a spokesperson for the Environmental Working Group, noting that media attention has, nevertheless, focused on baby bottles.