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When will FDA speak out on toxic plastics chemical BPA?

Immediate action needed to protect public while agency finalizes safety review

Immediate action needed to protect public while agency finalizes safety review.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 11, 2009
Contact: Shannon Coughlin, Breast Cancer Fund, 415-336-2246,

SAN FRANCISCO – It has been almost two weeks since the Food and Drug Administration missed its deadline to announce the results of a new safety assessment of the toxic plastics chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, and each day more newborn babies and pregnant women are left unprotected from this hormone-disrupting compound linked to breast cancer and birth defects.

About 125,000 babies have been born in the United States since Nov. 30, the FDA’s missed deadline. The Breast Cancer Fund said it’s time for the FDA to issue an immediate ban on BPA in hard plastic food containers and require labeling of all other food packaging containing BPA.

“It’s important that the FDA take the time to do the safety review right – especially since its last review of BPA was compromised by an over-reliance on studies funded by the chemical industry,” said Janet Nudelman at the Breast Cancer Fund. “But it’s equally important that the agency take immediate action to protect pregnant women and children from this toxic chemical, in light of the clear and compelling evidence that BPA is harmful.”

More than 200 studies show that even very tiny doses of BPA can cross the placenta and cause lasting harm to the developing fetus, increasing risk of breast cancer and other serious health problems. This week researchers at the University of North Carolina and Simon Fraser University in British Columbia announced that daughters of women exposed to BPA while they were pregnant are more likely as two-year-olds to show aggressive and hyperactive behaviors. The study is the first to examine the link between prenatal BPA exposure and behavioral problems in children. Last year, Canada became the first country to ban BPA from baby bottles, but the researchers said the study suggests the ban needs to go further.

It’s been 13 years since the FDA estimated Americans’ daily exposure to BPA to be at levels that have since been linked to breast cancer and birth defects. Four years ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the blood of more than 90 percent of Americans. Last week, a study by the Environmental Working Group found BPA in 9 of 10 umbilical cord blood samples tested, showing U.S. infants are born pre-polluted with the chemical.

In 2008, the FDA declared BPA safe, but the assessment was widely criticized for its dependence on two chemical industry-funded studies. Congress ordered the FDA to reassess the chemical. In June, the FDA said a decision would come by early fall. In October, the agency said the announcement would be made Nov. 30. But last week’s deadline came and went with no word from the FDA – not even of a new date for announcing its decision.

The Breast Cancer Fund says there is no reason to delay an immediate ban on BPA in polycarbonate plastic food containers because safe, cost-effective alternatives exist and are in use today. Connecticut, Minnesota and five localities have banned BPA-containing baby bottles, and most major baby and water-bottle manufacturers and retailers have moved toward BPA-free products. But without federal safeguards, protections remain a patchwork, with the burden on consumers to make sure their food containers are safe.

“It’s time for the FDA to catch up with the states, the marketplace and consumer demand so that all Americans are protected,” said Nudelman. “According to the National Toxicology Program the primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through their diet, making this a food-safety emergency that demands an immediate response from the FDA.”

In addition, the Breast Cancer Fund is calling on the FDA to require product labeling for non-polycarbonate uses of BPA in food packaging where there are no suitable alternatives available.

Advocates point out that developing safe BPA alternatives for food can lining requires innovation but clearly is possible, and complain that the trade associations for the chemical industry and the canning industry seem to be spending more time and money defending BPA than investigating alternatives.

Congress is considering a ban on BPA in all food and beverage containers. Legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., would ban BPA from baby bottles, sports water bottles, reusable food containers, and infant formula and food can liners. The FDA, however, could act immediately, independently of Congressional action.

“The weight of the scientific evidence shows that there is no safe level of exposure to BPA,” said Nudelman, “and demonstrates why the FDA needs to act now to protect the American people from this highly toxic, hormonally active chemical.”

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