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BPA Implicated in Health Problems, US Report Says

Apr 16, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP Bisphenol A, or BPA—a fairly ubiquitous chemical used in polycarbonate plastic products, including baby bottles and metal can coatings could be linked to a range of hormonal problems—according to a recent and preliminary government report developed by a group of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Institutes of Health (NIH).  The federal National Toxicology Program said experiments on rats found precancerous tumors, urinary tract problems, and early puberty when animals were fed or injected with low doses of BPA.  The report claims that while such studies provide “limited evidence” of BPA’s risks, the effects on humans “cannot be dismissed.”

In March, a group of North American environmental and health groups released a paper revealing many popular baby bottle brands leach BPA and called for a moratorium on its use.  At that time, the FDA and the infant formula industry—which adheres to federal packaging guidelines—said BPA is legal and safe.  Critics disagreed and maintain that BPA, which mimics the hormone estrogen, causes hormonal, neurological, and behavioral problems.  Over 90 percent of Americans are exposed to trace amounts of BPA, according to the CDC and last month said animal testing revealed BPA has hormone-like effects on the reproductive system.

In the lab, BPA has been linked to a variety of sex-hormone-imbalances, including breast and prostate cancer, early puberty, miscarriage, low sperm count, and immune-system changes.  "The reproductive system is developing, the brain is developing, the immune system is developing," said David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.  Knowing that, he said, it is "absolutely obscene" to expose infants to BPA.  The National Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction convened an expert panel last month to determine if BPA is hazardous to humans, including developing babies.  The panel found risk and exposure causes neural and behavioral effects in children.

In November, the FDA said there is “no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict its use.”  Representative John Dingell, Democrat-Michigan and chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, urged the FDA to reconsider the safety of BPA, saying the toxicology report’s findings “fly in the face of the FDA’s determination.”  Dingell also issued letters to seven companies that make baby formulations earlier this year—including Hain Celestial Group, Nestle USA, and Abbott Laboratories, questioning whether they use BPA in their cans and bottles.  BPA manufacturers include Dow Chemical Company and BASF Group.  “We’re hoping this decision will force FDA to recognize the toxicity of this chemical and make manufacturers set a safety standard that’s protective of the most vulnerable populations,” said Dr. Anila Jacobs of the Environmental Working Group.

Legislation has been proposed in several US states to limit or ban BPA use and some stores have pulled polycarbonate bottles.  Also, earlier this month, New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill to ban the sale of all products containing BPA and Canada’s health agency is examining the health risks of BPA with findings to be released shortly.

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