US chems argue safety of BPA but consumers flee

24 June 2008 20:06  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US chemical industry officials said on Tuesday there is no scientific basis for lawsuits challenging bisphenol A (BPA) in infant-care products, but manufacturers of end-use baby care items are abandoning BPA anyway.


Parents in Ohio recently filed a federal civil suit against five baby product firms, alleging they failed to disclose health risks of BPA in their infant care items.  That suit joins about a dozen others across the US that are seeking court injunctions against use of BPA and/or damages.


Steven Russell, managing director for the plastics division at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said he could not comment on specific lawsuits but noted that “In all of these cases, we point out that government assessments of BPA have in all instances found that it is safe in the uses for which it is approved in consumer products”.


Russell said that recent studies by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Union and Japan’s Ministry of Health have all found BPA safe in approved uses.


Environmental groups and lawsuit plaintiffs nonetheless challenge the use of BPA in child care products such as baby bottles and teething rings, arguing that those government studies have failed to consider the risk to infants in even low-dose exposure rates.


Russell dismissed those charges as well, noting that “the EU’s recent comprehensive risk assessment report included a review of those low-dose studies that allege health effects in infants at low dose levels”.


“That EU study found that the low-dose exposure reports were ‘insufficiently reliable and insufficiently robust’ and that the overwhelming evidence is that BPA is safe in those applications,” Russell said.


While a US National Toxicology Program (NTP) report in April this year said that testing on rats raised concern about possible human health effects of BPA, Russell cited a Health Canada study indicating that “consumers would have to eat hundreds of cans of canned food daily to reach an exposure level that could potentially pose health concerns”.  BPA is used to coat the linings of food cans.


Russell said the plastics industry is looking forward to the results of an FDA inter-agency study on the potential health impact of BPA.  That study, which will include the NTP report and many others, is due in the third quarter this year, according to the FDA.


Despite government and industry assurances of BPA safety in infant products, popular concern is driving a shift away from consumer items containing BPA. 


A spokeswoman for Playtex Products - one of the five firms targeted in the Ohio lawsuit - said on Tuesday that more than 80 of its infant feeding and soothing products are now being made without BPA and that the rest of its baby care product line will be BPA-free by year end.


That shift is seen as in part driven by recent decisions by Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers to remove from their shelves products containing BPA.


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By: Joe Kamalick
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