FDA Will Not Ban Bisphenol (BPA)

On March 30, 2012, the FDA made its ruling on a three-year-old petition filed by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), but only after the NRDC finally sued the FDA for procrastinating far beyond the 180 days they had to respond to the initial filing.  Noting that the NRDC had not provided strong enough scientific evidence that would support a total BPA ban, the FDA said that their decision was not a reflection on the final determination of the safety of BPA, just a decision on the petition.

BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a chemical used in many consumer products, including clear and hard plastics, called polycarbonate, used in water and soda bottles, as well as the linings of food and beverage cans and containers of baby formula. It is also found on the ink transfers on receipts.

The Natural Resources Defense Council believes the FDA “made the wrong call.” Dr. Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist in the council’s public health program, stated, “BPA is a toxic chemical that has no place in our food supply.” She added, “The FDA is out of step with scientific and medical research. This illustrates the need for a major overhaul of how the government protects us against dangerous chemicals.”

Last month, the Endocrine Society, a group representing 15,000 researchers and endocrinologists, expressed “disappointment” in the FDA for ignoring so much research that has been made in the past three years, demonstrating how truly harmful the chemical is to people’s heart, metabolic, and reproductive health.  BPA has been proven to interfere with the body’s system that is completely responsible for secreting hormones. Endocrinologists have been among the most active researchers with regard to the effects the chemicals have on the body and have asked for better support from our government regulators.

Many food manufacturers have removed or are seriously considering removing BPA from their packaging. Campbell Soup Co. announced they would not use BPA in their cans, thanks to a social media campaign, which put pressure on them.  It was consumer demand that finally got BPA out of baby bottles and sippy cups, NOT because of FDA policy.

“What was very disappointing was that, in the last three years, the amount of research on BPA has really increased exponentially,” says Andrea Gore, PhD, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin, and a researcher involved with the Endocrine Society’s evaluation of the science on endocrine-disrupting chemicals. She adds that, rather than look at the whole body of scientific evidence on BPA, the FDA looked only at the three-year-old science presented in NRDC’s petition. “There have been very strong, very convincing studies since then determining that BPA exposure at doses lower than what are considered safe really have the potential to have detrimental outcomes.”

“Everybody from the Endocrine Society was concerned that the research had not been taken into consideration,” she adds, particularly because more evidence is showing that it is not just children and babies who suffer reproductive and neurological impairment after being exposed to BPA, or even older adults, in whom BPA has been found to cause higher rates of heart disease, who should be concerned. “We’re particularly concerned about pregnant women, or even couples planning on having children,” she says. “What’s in their diets and in their environments will affect quality of their sperm and eggs, and that can impact the quality of their embryo.” Gore worries that the FDA’s soft stance on BPA will lead to greater confusion among the public as to how bad BPA is.

Until the FDA comes to its senses and places a ban on this very dangerous chemical, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

–       avoid canned food. BPA is used in the epoxy resins that lines cans. Buy fresh or frozen foods instead.
–       never microwave food in plastics, some can leak BPA into your food when heated
–       never drink from water bottles that have been heated  by the sun, even better, drink from re-usable BPA free water bottles
–       decline receipts. They are coated with high levels of BPA to help with printing and ink transfer and absorb right into your skin
–       Avoid products packaged in #7 plastic (unless marked BPA free)
–       Dental sealants contain BPA
–       If not breastfeeding, feed your newborn powdered formula. Tests on prepared liquid formulas have shown high levels of BPA, but powders are known to be BPA-free.

Maybe if we stop buying canned foods, the companies will respond.  It is unfortunate that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not care about the safety of Americans. Taking a “wait and see” approach is not the answer. If we are showing the FDA how dangerous and toxic this chemical is, why is it still being used in our food?

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