FDA reverses findings on BPA; cites health concerns for infants and children
New review of evidence has the FDA concerned about the impacts of BPA, one of the most common chemicals found in consumer products…Posted Jan 25, 2010
The Food and Drug Administration has reversed its position on the safety of Bisphenol A, a chemical found in plastic bottles, canned good liners, food containers and thousands of consumer goods, saying it now has concerns about health risks associated with the use of BPA.
This contrasts markedly with the FDA’s 2008 assessment that declared BPA use safe in consumer products, including for infants and children. It also aligns FDA’s views with those of the National Toxicology Program and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. But it sheds little light, for now, on how dangerous the chemical might be in the small amounts that leach out and are imbibed by infants and older people — or how rigorously it should be regulated.
Bisphenol A is used to harden plastics in thousands of consumer products, including baby bottles, food containers, dishware, appliances, electronics, shatterproof lenses and sports gear. BPA also makes the epoxy resins that line most food and beverage cans and jar lids. BPA is so prevalent that more than 90 percent of the U.S. population has traces of it in its urine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Growing scientific evidence has linked BPA to a host of problems, including cancer, sexual dysfunction and heart disease. BPA has been shown to interfere with hormones that regulate reproduction, development, metabolism and behavior. Federal officials said they are particularly concerned about BPA’s effect on the development of fetuses, infants and young children.
Regulators stopped short of banning the compound or even requiring manufacturers to label products containing BPA, saying that current data are not clear enough to support a legal crackdown.
The FDA had long maintained that BPA is safe, relying largely on two studies funded by the chemical industry. The agency was faulted by its own panel of independent science advisers in 2008, which said its position on BPA was scientifically flawed because it ignored more than 100 published studies by government scientists and university laboratories that raised health concerns about BPA. Recent data found health effects even at low doses of BPA — lower than the levels considered safe by the FDA.
The chemical industry … produces more than 6 billion tons of BPA annually …
The chemical industry, which produces more than 6 billion tons of BPA annually and has been fighting restrictions on its use, said the FDA’s recent announcement was good news because the agency did not tell people to stop using products containing the chemical.
According to a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council, “Plastics made with BPA contribute safety and convenience to our daily lives because of their durability, clarity and shatter-resistance. Can liners and food-storage containers made with BPA are essential components to helping protect the safety of packaged foods. . . . ACC remains committed to consumer safety, and will continue to review new scientific studies concerning the safety of BPA.”
Environmental groups, public health advocates and consumer organizations applauded the FDA for recognizing concern about BPA, but some said the agency didn’t go far enough.
The FDA and the National Toxicology Program will conduct further research on the safety of BPA over the next 18 to 24 months to reduce “substantial uncertainties” in assessing the risks of low-dose exposures. And the FDA will seek more robust and flexible regulatory authority to clamp down on the chemical if the evidence warrants.
Several states, counties and local jurisdictions have bans or restrictions on several uses of BPA in various products. Bills are pending in Congress to do the same. Canada has banned BPA from children’s products.
How to reduce exposure to BPA:
The Department of Health and Human Services has released recommended ways for the public to reduce exposure to BPA.
- For infant feeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months whenever possible, as breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for infants.
- Discard worn or scratched baby bottles, infant feeding cups or plastic food storage containers.
- Do not put boiling or very hot water, infant formula, or other liquids into BPA-containing bottles while preparing them for your child.
- As a good household practice, only use containers marked “dishwasher safe” in the dishwasher and only use “microwave safe” marked containers in the microwave.
- In general, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 are very unlikely to contain BPA. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
For an expanded list of measures people can take to reduce exposure to BPA, visit http://www.hhs.gov/safety/bpa.