FDA Expresses Concern About BPA, but No Ban

Many in the United States have been awaiting word from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on its findings regarding <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">Bisphenol a—BPA—while news continues regarding a variety of adverse effects linked to the controversial chemical.

Under previous leadership, the agency stood firm in its stance that BPA is safe; however, under new presidential and agency administration, the FDA vowed to take another look at the health effects from the ubiquitous chemical. Advocates for the chemical have maintained that scientists and advocates exaggerate BPA’s adverse effects, continually citing two industry studies; however, at last count, over 900 peer-reviewed studies found links between BPA and such effects. The FDA declared the chemical safe for all usage as of August 2008, said JSOnline previously; however, the agency’s science board recommended it had not looked at sufficient studies and began its review, setting last year’s now-missed deadline to release its findings. As a matter-of-fact, the FDA missed all of its 2009 deadlines on advising the public on the safety of products manufactured with BPA, the estrogenic, industrial chemical—a polycarbonate plastic byproduct—found in many common consumer products.

Now, the agency, while not instituting a ban, is advising Americans to take “reasonable steps” to avoid BPA, writes WebMD. The FDA has officially stated there is concern regarding BPA exposure in infants and developing infants, said WebMD, noting that Margaret Hamburg, MD, FDA Commissioner, also announced a $30 million BPA research program. The American Chemistry Council, a plastics industry group, said it is “disappointed” that the FDA’s recommendations are “unfounded,” said WebMD.

“At this time, we share the perspective of the NTP of some concern of health effects of BPA. This means we need to know more,” Dr. Hamburg said. “In the interim, as a precaution, the FDA is taking reasonable steps to help reduce human exposure to BPA,” added Dr. Hamburg, quoted WebMD.

“There are critical periods of development when exposure to BPA may lead to certain health effects, including behavioral effects, diabetes, reproductive disorders, development of certain kinds of cancers, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and effects that can go from one generation to the next,” said Linda Birnbaum, PhD, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, at the conference, quoted WebMD. Birnbaum was referring to earlier National Institutes of Health studies that looked at BPA’s effects on developmental and reproduction. “That is what led to our concern. It never looked at effects in adults, which is a different issue,” explained Birmbaum.

The FDA also said that BPA-containing products, such as plastic baby bottles and the plastic-lined cans of baby formula are safer than the risk associated with feeding babies “less nourishing foods,” said WebMD, citing the agency. Some U.S. health agencies suggest that Americans take “reasonable steps” to avoid BPA, including:

• Breastfeed infants for at least one year, if this is not possible, use iron-fortified formula even if the delivery method involves BPA.
• Discard scratched baby bottles and sippy cups and do not place boiling water in plastic bottles known to contain BPA; powdered formula should be mixed in a “BPA-free container and cooled to lukewarm.” Discard food containers with scratches.
• “Ready-to-feed” liquid formulas should be warmed by running warm water over the bottle and should never be heated in the microwave. Plastic bottles and containers should be labeled “microwave safe” or “dishwasher safe” before being placed in these appliances.

According to Sharfstein, the agency will look for increased regulatory powers to track and control BPA’s industrial use, said WebMD. Today’s regulations, implemented in the 1960s, allow manufacturers to use BPA and not advise the FDA; however, the agency is looking at more recent legislation to mandate that manufacturers notify it of such use and to enable bans if safety studies are not conducted, said WebMD.

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