US health agencies raise concern level over bisphenol A

15 January 2010 22:06  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday cautioned that new studies on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in infant food containers “provide reason for some concern” about the chemical’s health effects on newborns and young children.

In an FDA statement issued along with a parallel declaration by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the two agencies noted that a 2008 study by FDA found that food-related materials containing BPA were judged to be safe.

“But recent studies have reported subtle effects of low doses of BPA in laboratory animals,” said HHS in its statement, adding that “while BPA is not proven to harm children or adults, these newer studies have led federal health officials to express some concern about the safety of BPA.”

“It is clear that the government and scientists and doctors need more research to better understand the potential human health effects of exposure to BPA, especially when it come to the impact of BPA exposure on young children,” the department said.

The department said that in conjunction with FDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is providing $30m (€21m) for “important new health studies in both animals and humans to better determine and evaluate the potential health effects of BPA exposure”.

The results of those studies should be available by the middle of 2011 or by the end of that year, HHS said.

FDA also said that it is “taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply”, including facilitation efforts toward development of an effective alternative to BPA for the lining of infant formula cans and other food containers.

However, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) said in a conference call with reporters that there are no viable alternatives to BPA as a lining for containers to keep foods safe.

Steven Hentges, an official with the council’s polycarbonate and BPA product group, said the council agrees with FDA and HHS that “there is confusion among the public about the safety of BPA, but the science confirms the safety of this product”.

“My understanding is that there are no viable alternatives to BPA as a lining for food containers,” Hentges said.  “And we have to keep in mind that epoxy can coatings have been in use for decades to protect the safety of foods, and ultimately it is all about food safety.”

The ACC said in a statement that the Health and Human Services statement “confirms that exposure to BPA in food contact products has not been proven harmful to children or adults”.

“However, the agency suggests that more research needs to be done,” the council added.

But the council noted that “regulatory agencies around the world, which have recently reviewed the research, have reached conclusions that support the safety of BPA”.

“Extensive scientific studies have shown that BPA is quickly metabolized and excreted and does not accumulate in the body,” the council said, adding that “BPA is one of the most thoroughly tested chemicals in commerce today.”

HHS recommended in their Friday statements that parents avoid using scratched infant bottles that contain BPA and not to heat baby formula in containers using BPA.

But both agencies noted that they are not recommending that families change the use of infant formula or foods “as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk from BPA exposure”.

Lisa Harrison, a spokeswoman for the ACC, challenged media reports saying that FDA has backed away from its earlier declaration on the safety of BPA.

"FDA said that BPA 'was not proven harmful' to children or adults and that more research is needed," she said.

($1 = €0.69)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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