After an outbreak of bad publicity earlier this year over bisphenol-A (BPA), the plastic additive which dozens of studies identify as a potential carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, the U.S. government promised to take another look. Its conclusion: BPA is safe.
The Federal Drug Administration had previously cleared BPA for use in an array of consumer products, such as clear plastic baby bottles, the resin lining in food cans and many other items. It promised a new review of the science after Canada proposed a ban of BPA in baby bottles and manufacturers of polycarbonate water bottles began voluntarily giving up BPA. All cited concerns over the plastics’ tendency to leach when when warmed and possible harmful effects on humans, particularly children.
The results of the new FDA review were released last Thursday, about a month earlier than promised.
Lest anyone think the agency didn’t look very hard — the FDA had relied on plastics industry studies to support its initial approval of BPA — the regulators put out a 105-page draft on the topic. (Warning: You need medical expertise to read most of it.)
It found that the “”margins of safety” for human were sufficient for baby bottles and those epoxy can liners used in virtually all canned foods (shout out to Eden Organics for using better quality cans without BPA).
Those of us who would like to continue to eat canned chili and beans can take comfort that the U.S. report cites a similar review by the European Union in which regulators there also found no concern for alarm for BPA at “current exposures.”
Or we can heed the call to err on the side of caution, a sentiment implicit in the FDA’s own “message to consumers” put out during the reassessment period on its BPA info page:
“At this time, FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles.”
It’s unclear whether and when this advice will change because the FDA has promised to continue to consider new BPA studies and has called a September meeting on the topic for scientists. Meanwhile, the enduring controversy of BPA is unlikely to abate.
The FDA promised to put out a later safety report on BPA exposure from other FDA-regulated products.
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