The Canadian government has officially listed BPA, a chemical used widely in consumer plastics and food cans, as a toxic substance.

The listing will make it easier to ban the use of BPA in specific products, The New York Times reports.  However, the country’s next move will likely be to set limits on factories that release BPA into the air or water.

Canada is one of the leaders internationally in curbing the use of BPA in consumer products, having banned the substance in plastic baby bottles two years ago. Though studies have found the chemical to be present in nearly all humans, there is disagreement among scientists and regulators over whether it poses a significant health risk.

Many scientists believe BPA is an “endocrine disruptor,” meaning that it can mimic human hormones and harm the reproductive system, causing malformations, infertility and cancer. BPA — more formally known as bisphenol A — has been banned in children’s products in about a half-dozen states in the U.S.

A representative of the American Chemistry Council, an industry group that includes plastics firms, said in a statement that Canada’s listing of BPA as toxic was “contrary to the weight of worldwide scientific evidence.” Steven G. Hentges, who heads the polycarbonate and BPA group at the council, said Canada’s announcement was “unwarranted” and would “unnecessarily confuse and alarm the public.”

Environmental Defence, a Canadian group, applauded the decision. Rick Smith, executive director of the organization, said the group hoped to work with the government on “the next important step: banning BPA from all metal food and beverage cans since these can leach it into our food.”

Earlier this week, Maine’s environmental regulators postponed a decision to ban BPA from baby products, the Associated Press reports.

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