What will it take to rid our store shelves of BPA?

Despite insistence from regulatory agencies of the ubiquitous chemical’s safety, some companies are shifting to alternatives.

17 min readFeb 11, 2020


Photo courtesy of Lynne Peeples

By Lynne Peeples for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @lynnepeeps

Editor’s note: This story is part of a four-part investigation by Environmental Health News (EHN) and is republished here with permission.

A percussion of metal-on-metal echoes through the lab as empty food cans drop one by one off a conveyor belt and into rounded pockets of a rotating blue cogwheel.

As the cog circles counterclockwise, the can spins rapidly. Two spray guns blast a liquid lining inside before the can falls onto another conveyor belt and then shoots up a chute to a final belt that carries it down into a large curing oven.

These now freshly baked cans, their interiors a toasted brown, are part of a series of validation tests at the coatings company Valspar, recently acquired by Sherwin-Williams. For more than a decade, Valspar has worked to develop safe and effective replacements for food and beverage can linings historically made with bisphenol A.

Until about a decade ago, a layer of BPA-based epoxy about 20 times thinner than a human hair coated the inside of nearly all food and beverage cans. This shield excelled at preventing corrosion and, therefore, protecting us eaters and drinkers from deadly spoilage. But evidence has piled up that bits of the substance can leach from that lining and into soda, soups, Spam and sardines, among other canned products. And studies from academic laboratories show that BPA may mimic and mess with our hormones even at the tiniest of doses — increasing risks of cancer, diabetes and infertility, as well as derailing the normal development of a child’s brain. That science suggests that our bodies are so sensitive to this compound that the use of BPA needs to be eliminated, not just reduced, to protect our health.

“The regulatory agencies are saying BPA is just fine,” Tom Mallen, global director of packaging regulatory affairs at Sherwin-Williams, says. “But there is a large voice contradicting that.”




Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.