Steven Hentges, Ph.D
Thursday, December 7, 2017
If you’re reading this blog you probably have some interest in BPA and are aware of the controversy about its safety that has been reported in the media for some time.  To address the scientific controversy, government bodies around the world have repeatedly reviewed the complete scientific record on BPA and consistently conclude that BPA is not a health risk.
 
A critical part of understanding the safety of BPA is to understand actual human exposure levels.  After all, if you’re not exposed to a high level of BPA, it’s not likely you could be harmed.  This toxicology principle – commonly stated as “the dose makes the poison” – is broadly applicable to just about everything that we contact in our daily lives, from chemicals that occur naturally in food, to synthetic chemicals that we contact through the products we use, and to prescription medications we take to feel better.
 
In that context, a recent report from South Korean researchers on exposure of the local population to BPA provides some important new information.  As part of the Korean National Environmental Health Survey (KoNEHS), the researchers measured exposure to BPA (along with 20 other environmental chemicals) in a group of more than 6,000 adults scientifically selected to be representative of the Korean population.
 
What they actually measured in the participant’s urine is the level of a metabolite of BPA, which is scientifically accepted as the gold standard method for measuring BPA exposure.  It’s well known that after exposure people efficiently convert BPA to a biologically inactive metabolite that is quickly eliminated in urine.  If you’re interested in measuring BPA exposure, urine is the place to look for it.  That physiological process is also an important part of the scientific record considered by government bodies in their reviews of the safety of BPA.  
 
The researchers did find BPA, in the form of its inactive metabolite, but only at very low levels.  The typical level they found is almost 1,000 times below the so-called “biomonitoring equivalent” for BPA set by Health Canada researchers, which is equivalent to the safe intake limit for BPA in Canada.
 
These results provide further support for the conclusion of the South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) after its 2016 review of the scientific record on BPA.  They stated “we find that there are no health concerns for the general Korean population from dietary exposure or from aggregated exposure [to BPA].” That conclusion is comparable to conclusions reached by government bodies in other parts of the word, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada, and the European Food Safety Authority.
 
The researchers also noted that the level of BPA measured in the South Korean population is “lower than that of the United States … and Canada.”  So, if you’re still concerned about exposure to BPA, you could consider moving to South Korea, where exposure to BPA is apparently even lower than the already low levels reported in other countries.  
 
Of course there are other good reasons for at least visiting South Korea, including friendly people and excellent food.  What are you waiting for?