By David Derbyshire
A ‘gender-bending’ chemical used in food containers, baby bottles and baked beans tins should be put through the same rigorous safety trials as new drugs, a leading scientist has declared.
Professor David Melzer called for an urgent review into the safety of bisphenol A (BPA ) – a man-made chemical linked to heart disease, breast cancer and birth defects.
The Exeter University academic also urged manufacturers to cut down on BPA in food packaging and containers.
BPA is used to harden plastics and is found in baby bottles, CD cases, plastic knives and forks and the lining of food and drink cans.
Because the chemical mimics the female sex hormone oestrogen, many scientists believe it interferes with the way hormones are processed by the body.
Although some animal studies have indicated it is safe, others have linked injections of BPA to breast cancer, liver damage, obesity, diabetes and fertility problems.
Experts estimate that BPA is detectable in more than 90 per cent of people. Earlier this year, Denmark banned the chemical in food and drink containers for the under-threes.
A study by Professor Melzer, an epidemiologist, found changes in sex hormones associated with exposure to BPA in men.
He told a briefing at the Royal Institution in London: ‘Millions of pounds of this compound are being produced every day, but we still don’t know how it gets into humans.
‘I think small effects for large numbers of people matter and it’s reasonable that a tiny proportion of the costs of BPA should be put to human drug trial-type assessments to settle once and for all whether this compound is bio-active in humans.