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Bisphenol A might not be so safe after all

by David Accomazzo

Bisphenol A, the chemical found in hard plastic products such as water and baby bottles, may cause developmental damage to fetuses, infants and children, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Institute of Health's National Toxicology Program.

The report expressed "some concern," the NIH's third-highest level of concern out of five, that current levels of human exposure to BPA may cause harmful effects on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in a developing body.

In an audio file posted on the NTP’s Web site, John Bucher, associate director of the NTP, said the concern level stemmed from a lack of studies on human subjects.

"The studies in humans are really inadequate to reach any kind of conclusion, but the studies in animals have shown a variety of effects at very, very low levels when BPA is given to pregnant animals," Bucher said. "Although these are not completely understood with regard to how these effects might transfer to actual human effects and human risks, the fact that we are seeing these at levels of BPA exposures that are not particularly different from those experienced by humans would indicate to us that these effects cannot be completely dismissed at this point."

The report also expressed "minimal concern," the second-lowest level, that BPA exposure might harm the female mammary gland in fetuses, infants and children, and for workers exposed to high levels of BPA on the job.

The report showed "negligible concern," the lowest level, that BPA exposure could cause birth defects in pregnant women and that adults would experience harmful reproductive effects at current exposure levels.

The Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, a division of the NTP, finalized the report.

The report goes against a recent Food and Drug Administration consumer recommendation that stated, "(The) FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process."

The FDA, which did not return a call by deadline, issued the following statement to the NIH: "We are pleased to see the finalization of the NTP report," FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner and Chief Scientist Frank Torti said. "The FDA will consider this final report in our role as a regulatory agency and joins NTP in the call for additional research in this important area."

The Environmental Working Group issued a strongly worded press release lauding the NTP report and bashing the FDA.

"NTP reviewed over 100 independent scientific studies before reaching its conclusion, while FDA relied solely on three chemical-industry funded reports," the release said.

BPA is found in some food and drink packaging such as water and infant bottles, and also in lacquers used to coat metal products such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply pipes, according to the NTP Web site.

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