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Where Did All The Baby Bottles Go? Risk Perception, Interest Groups, Media Coverage and Institutional Imperatives in Canada's Regulation of Bisphenol A

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2015

Simon Kiss*
Wilfrid Laurier University
Journalism, Wilfrid Laurier University, 73 George Street, Brantford ON, N3T 2Y3, email:


As part of a multi-year, $816 million initiative to assess the risks posed by thousands of commonly used chemicals and compounds, Canada became the first country in the world to declare that bisphenol A (BPA) was toxic and justified regulation in April 2008. The process set up to conduct this risk assessment differed from the previous Canadian experience with the regulation of hazardous substances in that it was more formal, systematic and more pluralistic with much greater participation from interest groups. This case study explores the politics and process behind this decision and argues that the government's decision went beyond what scientific evidence could justify. The decision resulted from long-term institutional factors such as the incentive structure of Canadian federalism and values embedded in legislation as well as short-term factors such as media coverage, public opinion and interest group pressure.


Grâce à une initiative pluriannuelle de 816 millions de dollars pour examiner les risques posés par l'utilisation courante de milliers de produits et de composés chimiques, le Canada est devenu le premier pays dans le monde à déclarer que le bisphenol A (BPA) est un produit toxique et que de ce fait devrait s'en suivre des régulations quant à son utilisation à partir d'avril 2008.

De part le fait que le processus d'évaluation des risques suivi s'est fait sur une base plus formelle, systématique et pluraliste avec davantage de participation de groupes d'intérêt, il diffère de ce que le Canada avait l'habitude en matière de régulation de substances dangereuses. Cette étude de cas examine les politiques et processus qui ont servi à la prise de cette décision et met en avant l'argument qu' en fait le gouvernement ne disposait pas de suffisament de preuves scientifiques pour la justifier. La prise de décision résulterait de l'influence de facteurs institutionnels à long terme tels que des mesures d'incitation du fédéralisme canadien et des valeurs ancrées dans la législation, ainsi que de facteurs à court terme tels que la couverture médiatique, l'opinion publique et la pression des groupes d'intérêt.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2015 

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