Bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, is often used to make clear, hard plastics and to line cans containing food. It can mimic estrogen in the human body, and has been associated with adverse health effects such as reproductive abnormalities and a higher risk of cancer and diabetes.
In many places, the substance has been banned in baby bottles and other containers. Reports about the risks it poses usually garner a lot of attention. But regulators have been slow to knock BPA use. The Food and Drug Administration has called for further study of BPA, but has not banned the substance. The World Health Organization issued a report last year urging public health officials to hold off on regulations banning or limiting BPA use.
Confused? Unsure how to mitigate the potential risks? You're not alone -- and if you're interested in exploring your puzzlement further, you might want to look at this series of articles in the American Chemical Society's Chemical & Engineering News.
One major problem with assessing the danger posed by BPA, writes reporter Stephen K. Ritter, is that activists, scientists and regulators can't seem to agree on what the safety data show. While some have interpreted the numbers to show that humans probably get a dose of the chemical similar to those that have been shown to harm animals -- and have called for steep curbs on BPA use -- others cite inconsistencies in the findings and instead urge caution.