Email Shows FDA Relied on, Favored BPA Lobby

We have long been writing about the harm caused by the chemical <"">bisphenol A (BPA) and how the U.S. Food and Drug and Administration (FDA) consistently asserts BPA exposure levels do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and young children.

But a new report has just come out that raises serious questions about how the FDA reached such conclusions. According to the report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the FDA relied on chemical industry lobbyists to look at the toxin’s risks, track legislation seeking to ban BPA, and even monitor press coverage. In one case, said the Journal Sentinel, the FDA’s deputy director went so far as to obtain information from the BPA industry’s chief lobbyist to call into question a Japanese study that revealed BPA caused miscarriages in those workers to whom it was exposed, all before the government could review the study.

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Despite industry’s arguments that BPA is safe at current dosages, the ever-present chemical estrogenic mimicker used to harden plastics has been linked to a variety of ailments, including an increased risk of diseases or disorders of the brain, reproductive, and immune systems; problems with liver function testing; an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease; interruptions in chemotherapy treatment; and hormonal disturbances. BPA is also associated with serious health problems based on 130 studies conducted in the past decade, and newer research has found BPA to have negative effects at “very low doses,” lower than the FDA’s current safety standards.

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Most recently, studies revealed BPA seems to stay in the body longer than previously believed. BPA can be found virtually everywhere and is present in detectable levels in just about every human body. The highest levels are seen, noted the Chicago Tribune in a prior report, in the youngest Americans. Meanwhile, the FDA continues to maintain BPA is safe despite that it relied solely on two industry-funded studies for its draft review, something for which the agency has been criticized.

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“I’d like to get information together that our chemists could look at to determine if there are problems with that data in advance of possibly reviewing the study,” said Mitchell Cheeseman, FDA deputy director for food safety and applied nutrition, quoted the Journal Sentinel, citing an email in which the FDA official wrote to Steven Hentges, executive director of the trade association’s BPA group. The email referred to the Japanese study showing miscarriages in women exposed to BPA.

Last year, the Journal Sentinel reported the trade group authored entire portions of the FDA’s draft report and noted that emails obtained via the Freedom of Information Act pointed to industry receiving favor going back nearly a decade, with regulators relying on the association to handle much of its work. That same preference was not afforded to independent scientists. The Journal Sentinel reached out to a variety of BPA experts in the scientific community who confirmed they were not given meaningful access to FDA safety assessors, and added that the agency never sought them out for opinion or study review and felt that they received “uneven treatment.”

The Journal Sentinel also reported that environmental activist group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, despite its efforts, has been unable to meet with agency regulators and has received no response to a petition it filed last year to ban BPA from food products.

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