Despite Opposing Evidence, FDA Backs Industry and Says BPA is SafeAug 18, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
The Washington Post and Associated Press are reporting that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the highly controversial chemical found in can linings, baby bottles, and other household products does not pose a health hazard when used in food containers. The chemical involved is Bisphenol A (BPA), a toxin now found in the urine of about 93 percent of Americans.
BPA is a ubiquitous chemical compound that mimics estrogen and is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin. Studies confirm BPA is chemically similar to diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogen linked to the development of vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who took the drug in the 1950s-1960s to prevent miscarriage. BPA has been in commercial use since the 1950s and is found in a wide variety of everyday items including water bottles, food and drink packaging and can linings, dental sealants, CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses, and automobiles. Most experts agree BPA is disruptive to the body’s hormonal system; scientists disagree over what dosage is harmful. Over six billion pounds of BPA are produced in the US annually by Dow Chemical, BASF, Bayer, and others.
The FDA previously declared the chemical safe but agreed to revisit that opinion following a report by the federal National Toxicology Program (NTP) that said there was "some concern" with BPA over “neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures” and also had "some concern" for exposure in these populations “based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females.” The NTP is an arm of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and a partnership of federal health agencies.
The chemical industry and the agencies that regulate BPA use—FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—deemed BPA safe, largely on the strength of two industry-funded studies; the FDA has long maintained BPA’s safety, even in the face of tremendous opposition. In Senate subcommittee testimony, Norris Alderson, the FDA's associate commissioner for science, defended the FDA's reliance on the industry-funded studies. It’s no surprise that critics have long accused the FDA of failing to act on BPA concerns and accused it of acquiescing to industry. "It's ironic FDA would choose to ignore dozens of studies funded by [the NIH]—this country's best scientists—and, instead, rely on flawed studies from industry," said Pete Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences.
The new report conflicts with over 100 studies performed by government scientists and university laboratories confirming health concerns associated with BPA, including links to prostate and breast cancers, diabetes, behavioral disorders, and reproductive problems. Myers said the FDA disregarded recent studies of BPA’s effects included in the NTP’s April draft report, in which that group found even low doses of BPA can cause changes in behavior and the brain and may reduce fetus survival and birth weight.
Canada is planning to ban the use of BPA in baby bottles; state and federal lawmakers have introduced legislation to ban BPA in children's products; and Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer and Toys R Us, the largest toy seller, announced their shelves will be free of children's products containing BPA by January.