Despite opposition by the chemical industry, Canada has become the first country in the world to declare Bisphenol A, a compound used in many consumer products, toxic.
The move comes only two weeks after the European Food Safety Authority said the chemical, commonly referred to as BPA and used in some baby bottles and plastic and canned food packaging, poses no health risks.
AdvertisementFrance and Denmark, as well as Australia and some US states, however, have independently limited its uses.
On Wednesday, the compound was formally listed without fanfare by the Canadian government as being toxic to both the environment and human health in an official notice.
"A scientific assessment of the impact of human and environmental exposure to Bisphenol A has determined that this substance constitutes or may constitute a danger to human health and the environment," said the announcement in the Canada Gazette.
Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said Canada is the first country to take such "bold action."
"Canadians can rest assured that we are working hard to monitor and manage Bisphenol A," added Environment Minister Jim Prentice.
BPA is made from petroleum and, according to the government, Canadians are exposed primarily through food packaging.
Canada was also the first to ban its use in baby bottles in October 2008 after tests showed it can affect neural development and behaviour in laboratory animals exposed in the womb or very early in life.
As well, it may be concern for human fertility, as it has been shown to disrupt hormone systems in animals.
Over 130 studies over the past decade have also linked even low levels of BPA to serious health problems, breast cancer, obesity and the early onset of puberty, among other disorders.
The chemical industry has disputed its impact on humans, and it is still widely used in plastic water jugs, medical devices, hockey helmets, mobile phone housings, computers, car bumpers, carbonless papers and other consumer products.
Bisphenol A is also used in the manufacture of epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining on the inside of metal-based food and beverage cans.
Global production of the chemical was estimated at four billion kilograms per year in 2006.
Approximately half a million kilograms was imported annually into Canada in products, but this has decreased substantially since 2006, according to an industry survey.