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NIH Plans Major BPA Study

Oct 29, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP

The economic stimulus plan is one of the players involved in a large study of bisphenol A—BPA—the estrogenic chemical that has been making headlines over the myriad adverse effects that seem to be associated with its exposure.

USA Today wrote that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be funding some $30 million to study the controversial chemical’s safety and noted that nearly half of that money originates with the economic stimulus bill, citing Robin Mackar. Mackar is a spokeswoman for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

BPA, the commonly used plastic hardener and polycarbonate plastic byproduct that makes regular headlines for its links to a growing array of adverse health effects, as well as its growing ubiquity, made news recently in a Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel (JSOnline) report that said the United States government is stalling in its study of the toxin’s effects.

BPA has long been connected to increased risks of brain, reproductive, cardiac, and immune system diseases and disorders; problems with liver function testing; interruptions in chemotherapy treatment; and links with serious health problems. Studies have overwhelmingly found BPA to have negative effects at doses lower than current FDA standards; retention in the body longer than was previously believed; leeching into liquids being held in containers regardless of the containers’ temperature; and longer lasting damage, which some feel can be passed to future generations.

The NIEH sited these outcomes and studies and said the new study will also be looking into lower BPA exposures and links to “effects on behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, and various cancers” and will also research the chemical being passed from parent to child, said USA Today.

In urine tests, BPA is found in the overwhelming majority of Americans, more than 93 percent. Despite this, industry has long argued that scientists and consumer advocates are exaggerating the adverse effects the chemical, continually citing two industry studies; however, at last count, over 900 peer-reviewed studies found links between BPA and health effects.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is also planning to release its own report, as we have been writing, at the end of next month.

"We know that many people are concerned about bisphenol A and we want to support the best science we can to provide the answers," said Linda Birnbaum, director of the NIEHS, quoted USA today. Jacob, a scientist at the Environmental Working Group, feels that the agency has more than enough data to restrict the chemical, specifically in children and expectant mothers. "We can always learn more about BPA, but we have scores of studies showing that low-dose exposure can increase risks," Jacob said, according to USA Today.

BPA can be found in everything from baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, aluminum can linings, eyeglasses, and cars, to DVD and CD cases and some dental sealants. BPA can also be found in appliances and windshields; on recyclable bottles, BPA, as a component, can be verified if the item contains recycling number 7. We recently wrote that BPA has also been found to be present in common paper receipts. With BPA turning up in carbonless copy and thermal imaging papers, its common usage has grown exponentially.

Laws are either in effect or coming into effect in coming months in a variety of states and counties in the United States in which the sale of certain products containing polycarbonate has been banned, for instance, baby bottles, food containers, and sippy cups. Canada was the first country to announce plans to ban BPA, calling it a toxin and some retailers and manufacturers have announced plans to stop making products containing the chemical. Other states are looking into similar measures and a federal ban has been proposed in Congress on all food contact material.


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