The Natural Resources Defense Council has filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration, charging that the agency has failed to regulate bisphenol A, a chemical in food containers and water bottles that has been linked to cancer and reproductive issues.
The council originally petitioned the FDA to ban BPA in October 2008, and FDA rules required the agency to respond within 180 days, according to the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In January the FDA reversed its long-held position that BPA was safe and said it would study BPA over the next two years.
“BPA-free alternatives are already available and on the market,” said Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist in the NRDC’s environment and public health program. “The FDA has no good reason to [wait] in banning it. It’s upsetting that food is most people’s primary source of exposure to BPA. The FDA should act now to eliminate this unnecessary risk.”
An FDA spokesman said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.
BPA is found in such products as infant formula cans, soda and beer cans, fruit and vegetable cans as well as baby bottles, children’s spill-proof cups and reusable water bottles. It has been linked to prostate and breast cancer, reproductive harm, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
The Environmental Working Group, which supports banning the use of BPA in food and beverage packaging, applauded the NRDC’s action.
“The FDA has dragged its feet for far too long on this important public health issue,” the group said in a statement. “It’s difficult to understand how a federal agency purportedly in place to protect public health won’t seriously address the use of this hormone-altering chemical as an ingredient in food and beverage packaging. If a mountain of extremely troubling research associating BPA with a number of serious health problems won’t motivate our leaders at FDA, maybe it’s time to place this in the courts where evidence is actually considered.”
Support for the lawsuit was not universal. The American Council on Science and Health called the lawsuit “media grandstanding.”
“FDA has studied BPA through and through and has decided that it is safe enough to remain on the market," Elizabeth Whelan of the council said. "This isn’t a decision they made arbitrarily and capriciously – it was based on decades’ worth of scientific data.”