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BPA Confusion

Oct 30, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

We have long been reporting on the controversy surrounding bisphenol A—BPA—a ubiquitous chemical used to harden plastics that can be found in a wide array of consumer products, including plastic baby bottles.  BPA is also used as a coating in food cans.

Despite overwhelming skepticism and mounting evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently declared the controversial, estrogenic chemical safe.  Consumer groups criticize the findings used by the FDA in the face of hundreds of scientific studies suggesting that BPA is dangerous.  It is widely known that the FDA used two industry-supported reports in coming to its conclusion.  Congress is also questioning the chemical industry’s influence in drafting an FDA report about the safety of BPA in baby bottles.

Now, the Associated Press has listed some information regarding BPA meant to assist consumers in understanding the chemical that is present in the bloodstreams of nearly every American and that has been linked to a variety of health concerns.  In its report, the AP quotes Urvashi Rangan, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports says that consumers should "Get to know your plastics" and warns that consumes should avoid and never microwave foods in polycarbonate plastic containers—these are imprinted with recycling number "7" and the letters "PC." Do not use polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, use powdered infant formula not canned liquid formula, and reduce consumption of canned foods.  "If you the consumer want to take matters into your own hands while the science is being sorted out here, those are the things you can do that will directly reduce your level of exposure to BPA," said Rangan.  Meanwhile, the AP notes that acting Surgeon General Steven Galson warns that mothers s
hould not stop giving their infants proper nutrition over BPA fears and suggests, "While the best source of nutrition for babies is the mother's breast milk, infant formula remains the recommended alternative when breast milk is not an option."  Canada has recently approved a ban of BPA use in baby bottles.

The AP notes that the FDA's Science Board—a subcommittee of the Science Board that issued the report criticizing FDA's safety analysis—will meet tomorrow to discuss the controversy in public.  FDA officials point out that it could take two to five years to complete additional research and reach a final conclusion.  Representative Rosa DeLauro, Democrat-Connecticut, chairwoman of a committee with jurisdiction over the FDA budget warns that if scientific evidence continues to mount against BPA U.S. regulators do not act, Congress may try to restrict some uses for the chemical.  "If FDA continues to dismiss independent scientific evaluations of BPA, correcting the issue legislatively is an option," she said.

Recent research found a "significant relationship" between exposure to the estrogenic chemical and heart disease, diabetes, and liver problems.  Long-standing research points to hormonal disturbances and a variety of cancers and neurological and behavioral problems in adults and children.  The National Toxicology Program, part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has raised concerns about BPA, particularly childhood exposure from BPA that leaches from polycarbonate baby bottles and the linings of infant formula cans.


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