In a written response, Dr. John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, said that numerous regulatory bodies have concluded BPA at low levels poses no health risk, contending that BPA-lined cans actually reduced health costs by preventing food-borne illnesses from occurring within canned goods.
“When you consider that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 47.8 million people in the United States suffer from food-borne illness, with nearly 128,000 of them requiring hospitalizations and another 3,000 dying from such illnesses, these known cost savings in healthcare from BPA-lined cans are real and they are considerable,” he wrote.
Study authors took a different position. “The health consequences of BPA exposure are borne by society at large and are often borne by governments in the form of paying taxpayer dollars to support additional Medicaid and Medicare for conditions such as obesity and heart disease,” said study author Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor in pediatrics, environmental medicine and health policy at New York University's Lagone Medical Center. “We think this study suggests great opportunity for proactive prevention of environmental health hazards as a way to reduce healthcare costs.”
BPA has been used on a wide scale since the 1960s, with more than 1 million pounds produced each year. About 93% of Americans age 6 and older have BPA in their systems. Concerns over the potential harmful effects of prolonged exposure, which include adverse neurobehavioral development in young children, prompted the Food and Drug Administration to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, but the agency has not called for its overall removal from the market, stating in its assessment that BPA “... is safe at the very low levels that occur in some foods.”
Trasande acknowledged there was a lot of uncertainty as to the actual health effects of BPA, saying the study's estimate was most likely conservative.
The issue with finding a replacement material is cost. Replacing BPA with an alternative would add about 2 cents to every can produced, or about $2.2 billion a year, Trasande estimated.
Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHSjohnson