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BPA levels safe in soft drinks: Health Canada

ENVIRONMENT REPORTER

Soft drink lovers can consume the canned beverages without worrying about traces of estogen-mimicking BPA found in recent tests, Health Canada says.

The government department says its tests that detected bisphenol A in practically all of the canned soft drinks it surveyed shouldn't concern consumers because the amounts were extremely small and well below its safe consumption level.

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The results were "not conducive to any human health concern" and "extremely reassuring," Samuel Godefroy, director of the bureau of chemical safety within the food directorate at Health Canada, told a news conference yesterday.

The statement followed reports in The Globe and Mail and on CTV News about the survey, conducted as part of a safety review last year that led to BPA being added to the country's toxic substances list.

The pop testing was the most sophisticated done to date on BPA content in soft drinks, and the first in the world to consistently find low-level residues in the beverages. The highest levels were in energy drinks.

Canada was the first country to declare BPA toxic and ban its use in baby bottles. The steps were taken because of concerns that infants might be overexposed to traces of the synthetic sex hormone leaching from the bottles and infant formula cans.

But Health Canada has insisted that adults, pregnant women and older children need not worry about BPA, which is widely used in food packaging. In cans, it is applied as part of inside lining.

Dr. Godefroy said an adult would have to consume about 900 cans a day of pop with the highest level - an energy drink with 4.5 parts per billion - to exceed the safety standard.

The survey was based on a representative sample of the soft drinks sold in Canada and found BPA in 96 per cent of the 72 cans tested. The average level was around .5 ppb.

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Among the more elevated readings were a low-sodium, caffeine-free diet cola with 2.2 ppb, a second energy drink with 4.2 ppb, a citrus soda with 2.3 ppb, and a diet lemonade with 1.5 ppb.

But the government's insistence that the BPA levels in the drinks are of no concern was rejected by NDP health critic Judy Wasylycia-Leis, who said Health Canada's exposure standard "could be based on an outdated notion of what's a safe level."

About 40 studies have found harm around or below Health Canada's safety limit of 25 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day, according to Frederick vom Saal, a biologist at the University of Missouri who is considered an authority on BPA.

One experiment conducted in 2005 at Tufts University School of Medicine found adverse effects - a doubling of mammary-duct growth in rodents exposed during fetal development and early life - at a dose 1,000 times lower than the government's standard. If the same thing were to happen in humans, it would lead to an increase in breast-cancer risk.

Ms. Wasylycia-Leis said it wasn't logical for Health Canada to consider infants at potential risk from the BPA in baby bottles but not pregnant women from other consumer products, and she called on the government to ban the chemical from food and beverage containers.

Dr. Godefroy defended the safety limit as among the most stringent in the world. He also said that Health Canada scientists reviewed the studies on laboratory animals showing harm at doses around and below its safety limit, but they didn't view the results as applicable to people.

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About the Author
Investment Reporter

Martin Mittelstaedt has had a varied reporting career at the Globe and Mail, covering politics, the environment and business. He opened up the Globe's New York bureau for the Report on Business, and has also been on the banking and capital markets beats. He's written extensively on investing themes. More

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