FDA Brings In Panel Of Outside Experts For BPA Risk Assessment

Amid the government’s mixed messages with regard to ‘Bisphenol A’ (BPA), the Food and Drug Administration has reopened the debate over this chemical used in many plastic products, including baby bottles. Reiterating their earlier view, government toxicologists at the U.S. National Institutes of Health asserted that BPA presents ‘some concern’ with regard to harmful effects on development of the prostate and brain, and for behavioral changes in fetuses, infants and children.

In its draft report the FDA had said, “FDA concludes that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses, for infants and adults.” The agency further added that its findings were based on ‘a full examination of data considered pivotal to the relevant exposure levels associated with food contact substances’.

However, to review this draft report, saying that BPA is ‘safe’, the FDA has now referred the decision to its panel of outside experts. This move has been made to counter the criticism that the FDA has ignored strong evidence in animal studies, regarding the harmful effects of BPA. Critics have argued the views of the FDA are based predominantly on industry-funded studies, as a result of which the chemical has been ‘cleared’ despite other studies raising health concerns.

In a telephone interview, Sonya Lunder of the Environmental Working Group advocacy organization said, “We have serious concerns about FDA’s risk assessment for Bisphenol A.”

BPA is widely used to make polycarbonate plastic - a clear shatter-resistant material - in products like baby and water bottles, sports safety equipment, medical devices and even durable epoxy resins that are used a coating in most food and beverage cans and in dental fillings. The risk of consumption of BPA tends to be fairly high when it leaches out of plastic into the baby formula, or into water or food kept in a container.

Owing to the continuing safety concerns about the use of BPA, the nation’s largest retailer Wal-Mart, and the largest toy seller Toys R Us, have decided to remove all such kids’ products from their shelves that contain BPA.