FDA To Take Up BPA In Food Packaging

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration is taking up the issue of BPA (bisphenol A) in food packaging. This following a court settlement reached this week between the agency and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

The FDA must have a decision by March 31 on whether or not to ban the chemical, according to the settlement, said The Washington Post. In 2008, the NRDC filed a petition asking the FDA to ban BPA and citing numerous studies that showed links between the ubiquitous polycarbonate chemical and serious health risks. When the FDA did not answer within the mandated limit, the NRDC filed a lawsuit, said The Post.

NRDC senior scientist, Sarah Janssen said, “There have been no updates,” Janssen said. “FDA has not been very public or transparent on what they’re doing on BPA…. We welcome more science, but there comes a point when you have enough information to make a decision, and in this case, we think that point passed years ago,” The Post reported.

Now, the FDA must take a position regarding BPA, an estrogenic chemical in use for over four decades. The agreement was approved by U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones in New York, who said the FDA’s decision must be final and not a “tentative response.” The Post reported.

Industry group, The American Chemistry Council, called the settlement a “nonevent,” arguing that BPA is safe. The Council said that action by a number of states has served to confuse the public about BPA’s health risks. Of note, two of the studies on which the government has heavily relied concerning the safety of BPA were conducted by industry.

We’ve written about at least two BPA-breast cancer links and links to increased anxiety and depression in preschoolers exposed to BPA in the womb. BPA is structurally similar to the hormone estrogen, an issue because estrogenic exposure on the developing fetus and growing children has long been linked to adverse biologic effects; this demographic is also more susceptible to adverse health effects since the body is still developing.

BPA interrupts sexual development and processes, especially in fetuses, infants, and children and has been linked to toxic injury and implications in cardiovascular disease, intestinal problems, brain cell connection interference, increased risks of reproductive and immune system diseases and disorders, problems with liver function testing, interruptions in chemotherapy treatment, premature puberty, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and other female fertility and endocrine issues, and erectile dysfunction and male sexual problems in males as young as the developing fetus.

Meanwhile, The Post pointed out that the government has long stated that BPA in low doses is safe; however, early this year, the agency changed its position and agreed that scientific advances have raised “some concern” about BPA’s health risks. Despite this, the FDA never responded to the NRDC’s petition. Government agencies such as the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, have never issued final decisions on BPA’s effects. BPA is known to leach into products, whether heated or cold, and into the skin, from items such as paper money and receipts. The FDA does not ban the substance; however, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are conducting the $30 million research project to understand BPA’s effects and should have the results of this study to the FDA in 2012.

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