National Toxicology Program Stands its Ground on BPA Dangers

Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed the highly controversial toxin, <"">Bisphenol A (BPA), safe for use in baby bottles and food containers, government toxicologists maintain and reiterate their safety concerns about BPA use in those products.

Last month, the Washington Post and Associated Press reported that the FDA said BPA does not pose a health hazard when used in food containers.  In response, the National Toxicology Program repeated its initial findings, which were issued in April.  The group reports that BPA’s “risks to humans cannot be ruled out.” according to a new AP report, stating that there is “some concern” BPA can cause developmental problems in the brain and hormonal systems of infants and children.

BPA is a ubiquitous and toxic chemical that mimics estrogen and is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin.  Studies confirm BPA is chemically similar to diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogen linked to the development of vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who took DES in the 1950-60s to prevent miscarriage.  A plastic-hardening compound that has been in commercial use since the 1950s, BPA is found in a wide variety of everyday items.  Most experts agree BPA is disruptive to the body’s hormonal system; scientists disagree over what dosage is harmful. Over six billion pounds of BPA are produced in the US annually by Dow Chemical, BASF, Bayer, and others and BPA is now found in the urine of about 93 percent of Americans.  Despite this, the American Chemistry Council—a group which represents plastics manufacturers—“stressed that studies from animals provide ‘limited and inconclusive evidence,’” said the AP.  That group has worked over the past year defending BPA over concerns about the chemical’s risks to children.

The chemical industry and the agencies that regulate BPA use—FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—deemed BPA safe, largely on the strength of two industry-funded studies; the FDA has long maintained BPA’s safety, even in the face of tremendous opposition.  It’s no surprise that critics continue to accuse the FDA of failing to act on BPA concerns and of acquiescing to industry.  “It’s ironic FDA would choose to ignore dozens of studies funded by [the NIH]—this country’s best scientists—and, instead, rely on flawed studies from industry,” said Pete Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences.

After more than a year of complaints from consumer and parent groups, the FDA finally looked at BPA again, reports the AP, saying last month that the “trace amounts that leach out of food containers are not a threat to children or adults.”  The toxicology group disagrees saying, “More research is clearly needed to understand exactly how these findings relate to human health and development,” said Michael Shelby, who directed the group’s report. “But at this point we can’t dismiss the possibility that the effects we’re seeing in animals may occur in humans.”  Over 100 studies performed by government scientists and university laboratories confirm health concerns associated with BPA, including links to prostate and breast cancers, diabetes, behavioral disorders, and reproductive problems.  Experts feel the FDA disregarded NTP’s studies of BPA’s effects, in which that group found even low doses of BPA can cause changes in behavior and the brain and may reduce fetus survival and birth weight.

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