Green News

Canada leads ban on BPA

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/20 at 10:50 AM


Six months ago, Canada announced that the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) was a hazardous substance. This past Saturday, Ottawa officially listed bisphenol A on its list of toxic substances and said regulations prohibiting the importation, sale and advertising of baby bottles containing BPA would come into force in 2009. Measures will also be taken to reduce the amount of BPA that is released into the environment. 

Tony Clement, Minister of Health, said, "In 2007, we issued a challenge to industry under our Chemicals Management Plan to provide information on how they manage bisphenol A. Today's announcement is a milestone for our government and for Canada as the first country in the world to take regulatory action." 

The federal government has allocated an additional $1.7-million over the next three years to fund research into the effects of bisphenol A. The government says that this research funding is in addition to " major studies currently underway at Health Canada and Environment Canada". It is meant to help "address key knowledge gaps in both the Canadian and international scientific community, and inform Government decision-making should further actions be required".

Although current levels of bisphenol A found in baby bottles are believed to fall below the danger threshold, "due to the uncertainty raised in some studies relating to the potential affects of low levels of bisphenol A, the government of Canada is taking action to enhance the protection of infants and young children," Health Canada said in the statement.

There were also environmental concerns behind the ban. Environment Canada scientists are warning that, "bisphenol A is entering the environment through wastewaters, washing residues and leachate from landfills. It also breaks down slowly in the environment when there is a lack of oxygen. The combination of the slow break down of bisphenol A and its wide use in Canada means that over time, this chemical could build up in our waters and harm fish and other organisms".

Environment Minister John Baird said, "our government did the right thing in taking action to protect the health and environment for all Canadians".


About the author: Environment Smart

Top 9 reasons not to use Triclosan

Posted by TheGreen on 10/15 at 01:04 AM

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  • Recently, Health Canada recommended avoiding antibacterial products because they kill good bacteria that fight bad germs, and because of concerns over antibacterial resistance(1).
  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has registered triclosan as a pesticide.
  • In the laboratory, triclosan-resistant bacteria can be produced fairly readily by serial passage in increasing triclosan concentrations(2).
  • Soap and water are as effective for hand washing as products containing triclosan(3).
  • Triclosan is appearing in human breast milk and poses potential toxicity to fetal and childhood development(4).
  • Reports suggested that triclosan can combine with chlorine in our city tap water to form chloroform gas(5).
  • Triclosan is weakly androgenic, causing changes in fin length and sex ratios of fish(6).
  • The chemical formulation and molecular structure of this compound are similar to some of the most toxic chemicals on earth, relating it to dioxins and PCBs. The EPA gives triclosan high scores both as a human health risk and as an environmental risk. Triclosan is a chlorophenol, a class of chemicals which is suspected of causing cancer in humans(7).
  • The American Medical Association draws this conclusion: "The use of common antimicrobials (triclosan) for which acquired resistance has been demonstrated in bacteria as ingredients in consumer products (antibacterial handsoaps etc) should be discontinued, unless data emerge to conclusively show that such resistance has no impact on public health and that such products are effective at preventing infection"(8).
  • List of Triclosan and Triclocarban free products.
  • List of products containing Triclosan.
  • Note that some companies are being pro-active and removing Triclosan from their products. Proctor and Gamble are on of those companies.


About the author: TheGreen

No more Triclosan in our house

Posted by Environment Smart on 10/14 at 01:03 PM

On the subject of antibacterial soap, our favourite no nonsense scientist, Dr. Joe Schwartz (Ph.D., director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society) has this to say: 

"Washing with soap and water is enough, except in a hospital environment ... You don't want to use a jackhammer to kill an ant when stepping on it will do". 

As soon as we started reading the reports on the damage that antibacterial soap can cause, we disposed of whatever we had left in the house. I actually found it rather disturbing that we were bringing our jug of "Softsoap" to the hazardous waste depot. It smelled so nice and seemed so clean. We had read, however, that there was cause for concern regarding the levels of Triclosan (the antibacterial agent used in the soap) on the development of tadpoles in our waterways. I did not want to start emptying my almost full jug down the sink.

It has been about half a year that we have not been using any antibacterial soap, whether at home or elsewhere. I often see dispensers in stores and restaurants labeled "antibacterial", and have started instructing our children to wash their hands with the regular soap whenever it is available. We recently, however, stayed at a lodge where the choice was not clear. There was a soap dispenser on the wall and a bottle of antibacterial soap beside the sink. The kids naturally went for what was easiest to reach. In this case, we took a moment to explain our concerns to the lodge administration, and received a favourable response.

In the meantime, I have also discovered that Triclosan may be found in a couple of other household products that we use. Any products using Microban and Biofresh, for example, will contain Triclosan. According to Wikipedia, Triclosan is used in many common household products including Clearasil Daily Face Wash, Dentyl mouthwash, Dawn, the Colgate Total range, Crest Cavity Protection, Pepsodent, Softsoap, Dial, Right Guard deodorant, Sensodyne Total Care, Old Spice and Mentadent. I also found a research paper by M. Angela McGhee, Ph.D., Biology and Marine Sciences, that provides clear brief description of the damaging use of Triclosan. The and Grinning Planet websites provide detailed information and lists of products containing Triclosan. Please note that these product lists may not be entirely up to date. 

One of the products on the Grinning Planet site is Old Spice High Endurance deodorant. This is a product that we use. We put in a call to the 1-800 number provided and were informed that as of 2007, Old Spice no longer contains Triclosan. We suggest that as you go through the lists of the products mentioned on the websites above, you might also take a moment to call the manufacturing companies. 

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About the author: Environment Smart

Dr. Joe Schwartz on BPA

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/20 at 09:24 PM

It is certain that Bisphenol A and other chemicals leach out of some of the plastics we use for drinking and eating every day. Is the amount of chemicals leached, however, as serious a hazard to our health as many news articles report? And, does the hype over these risks warrant a government ban of Bisphenol A used in plastic food related containers?

In a recent CTV News interview, Joe Schwartz discussed his point of view on the Bisphenol A (BPA) debate. Dr. Schwartz is a doctor of chemistry and professor at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He is the director of McGill’s Office for Science & Society which is dedicated to demystifying science for the public.

According to Dr. Schwartz, it is difficult to predict the long term health effects of Bisphenol A. “Toxins by definition are poisonous substances, so certainly are worth worrying about.  But of course as toxicologists point out, “only the dose makes the poison.”

Some rodent studies and laboratory experiments have shown that trace amounts of BPA’s can cause problems ranging from birth defects and impaired blood sugar control to breast and prostate irregularities. Whereas these studies have used rodents as subjects, BPA has also been found in our blood and urine. Dr. Schwarrtz points out that “our ability to detect trace amounts of chemicals has surpassed our ability to interpret what the numbers mean.  Hence the debate about the risks of BPA exposure”.

Producers of BPA assure us that the amounts to which we are exposed is not worrisome, while some researchers claim that even minute levels of BPA in our bodies is potentially harmful. The argument continues with studies showing that “rodents employ a different detoxication mechanism than humans, and do have more circulating BPA after exposure than we would have.” There is also the issue of type of exposure to BPA.  “Many of the rodent studies have used injected or implanted BPA, which is a different type of exposure than ingestion.”  BPA critics retort with the argument that “injecting BPA into pregnant rodents is an appropriate way to study effects on the fetus.  And, as far as humans go, while indeed detoxification reactions do swing into action, these are much less efficient in children and babies, who are therefore at greater risk.” 

Dr. Schwartz continues to outline various other natural substances in our environment that expose us to higher estrogen levels that BPA. Alfalfa sprouts, soy beans, lavender oil and milk are among these. There is also Nonylphenol, an estrogenic ingredient in numerous detergents, along with the natural estrogens and birth control pill remnants that end up in our sewage.  These substances are not removed by sewage treatment and end up in our surface and ground water.

“In other words we are awash in a sea of both natural and synthetic hormone disrupting substances and it is unrealistic to accuse a specific one of being the devil incarnate.” 

Dr. Schwartz warns us, however, that “this does not mean that we should be cavalier about hormone-like substances in the environment.”  Even though there is no hard evidence that BPA levels encountered present a risk to humans, there are potential risks that we are not sure of. It is possible that babies do not excrete BPA as efficiently as adults. We also do not know what synergistic effect BPA has when combined with other endocrine disrupting substances. Dr. Schwartz suggests that there are glass baby bottles and containers of other plastics available. He also believes that it “seems a good idea to search for viable alternatives to the epoxy lining in canned foods”.

Dr. Schwartz’ final message is that: “panic over drinking from polycarbonate bottles is unwarranted, and talk of banning polycarbonate plastics is naive.”

Quotes are taken from Dr. Joe Schwartz’ article entitled: “Bisphenol A (BPA) – The Case for Polycarbonate Water Bottles”


About the author: Environment Smart

Leaching Plastic: Healthy Choices

Posted by Environment Smart on 09/20 at 11:52 AM

A few months ago we read an article in Scientific American on the hazards of some plastics leaching the harmful hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) after repeated uses. We found the article quite disturbing, since we were using quite a few plastic containers for drinks, snacks and lunches. After doing a bit of further research, we discovered that not all plastics contain BPA. We were under the incorrect understanding, however, that the higher the plastic number stamped in the container, the more risk of leaching there was. We went through all of our plastics and threw away any containers with a #5 to #7. Since then, we have learned a bit more. We may have over-reacted. An article in The Good Human online magazine outlines the different plastics and their safety level with regards to BPA. Plastics with #2, #4 and #5 stamped on them seem to be the safest to use. Plastics with #1, #3, #6 and #7 stamped on them all pose risks of leaching hormone-disrupting or carcinogenic chemical. Repeated use of these plastics should be avoided.

We continue to look into the issue of leaching plastic, because there is still some debate about the health concerns of plastics. In the meantime, however, we are not willing to take any chances.

Visit National Geographic’s “The Green Guide” for a comprehensive article on the Bisphenol A (BPA) debate.

About the author: Environment Smart