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FDA Alters Stance, Has 'Some Concern' About Chemical BPA
The Food and Drug Administration today said it has "some concern" about a ubiquitous, estrogen-like chemical called BPA, used in consumer products ranging from baby bottles to dental sealants and the linings of metal cans, but the agency didn't call for a ban of the chemical or a change in consumer behavior.
That's a subtle, but significant change from the agency's 2008 position, in which the FDA said that BPA is safe.
Although the FDA stopped short of telling parents to change formulas or throw out old bottles, officials said they are encouraging manufacturers to stop making baby feeding products containing BPA. The agency also wants to help manufacturers to find safer materials to line metal cans of liquid baby formula.
The agency also is looking into ways to expand its authority to regulate BPA, in case scientists do find definitive evidence of harm, says Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA's principal deputy commissioner.
Federal officials say they will continue studying the issue. The National Institutes of Health is investing $30 million in BPA research, whose results should be available within two years. Meanwhile, officials offered suggestions for reducing exposure to BPA, such as not pouring boiling water in plastic bottles, which can cause BPA to leach out.
Yet some environmentalists were frustrated by the FDA announcement, saying that it gives parents mixed messages.
Sarah Janssen, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the FDA should have given parents clear instructions to avoid BPA in food packaging, even as scientists conduct more research. By expressing concern but not banning the chemical, the FDA is likely to confuse parents about the best way to protect their children, she says.
The American Chemistry Council, an industry group, agreed that the FDA announcement may confuse consumers.
While the announcement confirms that "exposure to BPA in food contact products has not been proven harmful to children or adults," the council says it is "disappointed that some of the recommendations are likely to worry consumers and are not well-founded."
Canada has banned BPA in baby bottles, a move that led the six largest manufacturers - which make more than 90% of the baby bottles in the USA - to stop using the chemical, says Sharfstein.