Acknowledging there is "some concern'' that a chemical found in baby bottles and infant sipping cups could cause adverse heath effects in children, Food and Drug Administration officials pledged yesterday to study the chemical far more closely but said there was not enough evidence to further regulate it.
As a precaution, the Department of Health and Human Services issued recommendations to consumers yesterday, including one to throw away scratched cups and bottles with Bisphenol A because small amounts of the chemical can seep out and be ingested by children.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is added to many plastics and liners of canned goods, including liquid baby formula. Studies in laboratory animals suggest the chemical might increase the risk of developmental problems in some fetuses and young children, along with other ill effects.
"Recent reports show subtle effects of BPA in lab animals that has raised concerns,'' William Corr, deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a telephone press conference. His agency will spend $30 million to study the chemical's effect on young children. "We are taking a much closer look,'' he said.
The FDA had long declared BPA safe for adults and children. Now, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, BPA is of "some concern'' for infants and children.
Massachusetts Congressman Edward J. Markey, lead author of a bill to ban BPA in all food and beverage containers, said the announcement was important for keeping young children safe.
"The Obama administration is not only restoring science to its rightful place in public health policy decision making, but is also signaling its plans to take bold steps to keep this dangerous chemical out of the reach of children,'' he said. "It is clear that BPA poses serious health risks.''
But the American Chemistry Council, an industry group, said in a statement that the federal announcement "confirms that exposure to BPA in food contact products has not been proven harmful to children or adults.
"Regulatory agencies around the world, which have recently reviewed the research, have reached conclusions that support the safety of BPA.''
Many manufacturers have voluntarily replaced BPA in products ranging from baby bottles to drinking water containers - and some stores such as Wal-Mart and CVS have agreed to discontinue carrying some children's items made with BPA.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts public health officials have warned parents of young children to avoid storing infant formula or breast milk in plastic bottles containing bisphenol A - and urged pregnant or breast-feeding women to avoid the common chemical in other food and drink containers.
Some states have gone further, such as Connecticut, which banned the chemical from infant formula and baby food cans and jars, and reusable food and beverage containers sold in the state.