Monday, April 9, 2012

FDA Not Ready to Ban BPA

In response to a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) that bisphenol A (BPA) be banned from food packaging, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that there is not enough scientific evidence that BPA is harmful to humans to warrant banning the chemical at this time. It’s a predictable and defensible statement from a government agency charged with safeguarding the public health. How else should they act without evidence?

BPA is used as a softening agent in hard plastics such as reusable water bottles and baby bottles, and in the plastic lining of food cans. It belongs to a class of chemicals called “endocrine disruptors” that mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen. In animal studies, toxic doses of BPA may disrupt growth and development or cause endocrine or nervous system disorders. No one knows for sure if it’s harmful at the much lower doses to which humans are exposed, but many consumers continue to be concerned.

The FDA continues to study the health effects of BPA. The agency is likely to act quickly if evidence of harm ever emerges. In the meantime, for people who remain concerned the agency offers advice on how to limit one’s exposure to the chemical.

Companies that make consumer products, on the other hand, don’t feel obligated to wait for scientifically defensible evidence – the court of public opinion is enough for them. Baby-bottle makers and some canned food companies are already searching for alternatives and phasing out their use of the chemical wherever possible.

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