A little over a year ago I posted an essay here and at DK about the potential health hazards of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly found in polycarbonate plastic containers for many consumer products, including drinking vessels like baby bottles. BPA is also an ingredient in some epoxy compounds. Here is a link to the original piece. Start with a Clear Silicone Nipple: Craptastic Plastic, BPA and you!. I encourage you to revisit it for a refresher on some of the chemistry, hazards and politics involved if you’ve forgotten about it. At the very least, this is the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) code that requires your attention, as it includes the BPA containing plastics.
Since I posted that essay the FDA has continued to maintain that current BPA levels found in plastics are safe.
With regard to BPA generally, based on all available evidence, the consensus of regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that the current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and young children.
Health Canada’s Health Products and Food Branch has concluded that current dietary exposure to BPA through food packaging uses is not expected to pose a health risk to the general population, including newborns and infants. However, using a precautionary approach, the Government of Canada has taken steps to reduce exposure to BPA for infants and young children.
The FDA is currently preparing a detailed response to the October 2008 review by the FDA Science Board of the agency’s draft assessment of the safety of BPA for use in food contact applications. The draft assessment focused on the concerns for developmental toxicity identified in recent assessments of BPA, including those of the National Toxicology Program and their expert panel. For example, the FDA is reviewing research about the potential low-dose effects of BPA and will carefully evaluate the findings of these studies.
Yet a recent Harvard/CDC study shows BPA Levels in Adults Up 70 Percent After Drinking From Plastic Bottles
Seventy-seven Harvard student volunteers experienced a nearly 70 percent increase in urinary levels of bisphenol A (BPA), a plastics component and synthetic estrogen linked to cancer, reproductive system damage and other serious conditions, after drinking cold beverages from BPA-laden polycarbonate bottles for just one week, according to researchers from Harvard University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The ground-breaking Harvard/CDC study, led by Karin B. Michels, a Harvard professor of epidemiology, and published May 12 in the online version of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives poses serious implications for the impact of BPA exposure on infants fed with polycarbonate bottles.
Here is a link to the full study – Use of Polycarbonate Bottles and Urinary Bisphenol A Concentrations
Adding insult and rage to the injury, intrepid reporters over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have found that the FDA relied heavily on BPA lobby in obtaining its results. Another case of the coyotes minding the henhouse. I’m so not shocked, but it still pisses me the fuck off.
Here’s a chunk of that article, but I encourage you all to read the whole thing. The background on the lobbyist involvement in FDA safety decisions really is nauseating. What they’ve done should be criminal.
As federal regulators hold fast to their claim that a chemical in baby bottles is safe, e-mails obtained by the Journal Sentinel show that they relied on chemical industry lobbyists to examine bisphenol A’s risks, track legislation to ban it and even monitor press coverage.
In one instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s deputy director sought information from the BPA industry’s chief lobbyist to discredit a Japanese study that found it caused miscarriages in workers who were exposed to it. This was before government scientists even had a chance to review the study.
“I’d like to get information together that our chemists could look at to determine if there are problems with that data in advance of possibly reviewing the study,” Mitchell Cheeseman, deputy director of the FDA’s center for food safety and applied nutrition, said in an e-mail seeking advice from Steven Hentges, executive director of the trade association’s BPA group.
The FDA relied on two studies – both paid for by chemical makers – to form the framework of its draft review declaring BPA to be safe.
At least there was an email trail to follow in this case, illuminating the heinous cronyism and corruption between the FDA and industry. We now know how common place this sort of thing was under the Bush Junta. Will things CHANGE now under Obama, I wonder? The Journal Sentinal article says that the new FDA chief medical officer will revisit the issue.
The e-mails show how government regulators relied on the trade association to do much of their work for them.
In one e-mail, the FDA asked Hentges to give the trade association’s opinion of a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the prevalence of BPA. It is not clear why the FDA wouldn’t do its own analysis or have the CDC provide that information.
FDA administrators declined to comment on the specifics of the e-mails. But Jesse Goodman, newly appointed as the FDA’s acting chief medical officer, said the agency will take a “fresh look” at BPA that will include a wider network of opinions than previously had been considered.
“We have heard the criticism” about the FDA being too cozy with chemical makers, Goodman said. “We are following through to make sure that we look at all the science.”
In October, the FDA’s own advisory committee said that its examination was not thorough enough and that FDA scientists improperly discounted dozens of studies that showed the chemical caused harm. The committee recommended that the FDA reopen its review of the chemical, but so far the agency has not changed its opinion. And, six months later, the FDA has yet to hold a public meeting on BPA safety.
A spate of local and state bans on BPA has passed recently – including those in Chicago and Minnesota – and more are being considered. The bans prohibit the sale of products made with BPA for children under the age of 3.
I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the FDA to get it straight. I’d recommend boycotting any BPA based food and beverage products and encourage both state and local bans until a national ban can be enacted.
This story is such a clear example of how Industry Lobbyists and Government Agencies really do hate America and Americans. This kind of corruption absolutely needs disinfecting in every nook and cranny. Why can’t Obama create boatloads of jobs exactly in this arena? Perhaps Michelle Obama could be encouraged to take some interest in this topic also, since it is so much a Mom issue. What is it going to take? I want some change, damnit!
For more info
For yelling louder contact,
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) who have introduced legislation to restrict BPA in beverage containers.