Nasty Plastic Meets Its Nemesis: Canada

Progressives can now add a designation of toxicity for BPA (a toxic compound found in everything from store receipts to water bottles) to the list of landmark legislation that Canada has passed before the U.S. As of this week, Bisphenol A--a compound linked to breast cancer and early puberty, among other things--is considered a toxic substance in the country.

This doesn't mean that BPA is banned in the country, but the ruling does give Canada the freedom to develop regulations that manage human and environmental risks posed by the substance. And a "toxic" label on BPA means that regulators can easily ban BPA in specific products without having to change laws or write legislation.

Banning BPA won't be easy--manufacturers haven't agreed upon a catch-all replacement for the substance, which is used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. There are potential alternatives, however; Archer Daniels Midland Company recently introduced a corn-based BPA replacement--isosorbide--that it plans to manufacture on an industrial scale.

Canada has already banned BPA in baby bottles, and six states in the U.S. have banned BPA from children's products. But while the Canadian government has officially decided that BPA "constitutes or may constitute a danger to human health and the environment, the U.S. government doesn't believe there is sufficient evidence of BPA's harmful effects to make a similar ban.

Still, a widespread ban on BPA in Canada could have effects aross the border--manufacturers forced to remove BPA from their Canadian products may simply keep those same products BPA-free for Americans. But that depends, of course, on how far Canadian officials decide to extend BPA bans.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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