FDA Faulted for Stance on Chemical in Plastics

Source: Washington Post

Steve Reinberg

Saturday, November 1, 2008

FRIDAY, Oct. 31 (HealthDay News) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel agreed Friday that the agency had erred in August when it said that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and other plastic packaging for foods and beverages posed no health risks.

On Wednesday, a panel of toxicology experts said the FDA hadn't properly assessed the potential health risks posed by the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which some studies have linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and developmental delays in children. The toxicologists said the FDA had relied too heavily on studies funded by the chemical industry to make its decision, and had failed to consider other studies that questioned the safety of BPA.

The panel of toxicologists had been convened by the FDA after the agency ruled that BPA was safe at current exposure levels -- a stance that prompted criticism from some lawmakers and consumer groups.

On Friday, the FDA's Science Board, which consists of scientists from academia, government and industry and advises the FDA commissioner, seconded the toxicologists' concerns about the FDA's August ruling. The issue will now go to FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach. It's unclear how the FDA might respond, the Washington Post reported.

"Let me be clear: There's no shame for having your hypothesis disproved", von Eschenbach said during Friday's session, referring to BPA without mentioning it by name, the Dow Jones news service reported.

Read the full story.


ANH Comment

FDA Commissioner Von Eschenbach might not feel there's any shame in having his agency's hypothesis disproved. But the fact of the matter is that the FDA saw fit to base it on studies funded by the chemical industry, while avoiding copious evidence suggesting extreme carcinogenic and other risks related to even very low levels of the plasticiser. We say: shame on you, von Eschenbach!  It doesn't take a stroke of genius to see that vested interests and independent research are not usual bedfellows.

For those of you coming new to this long-running, but highly topical debate, BPA is a controversial plasticiser found in food containers and wrappers (eg cling film, plastic bottles, baby bottles, inner can lining) that has been shown to migrate from the plastics into the contents it encloses, i.e., our food and drink. 

There is agreement from many of the leading BPA researchers that the compound is potentially so harmful, that no detectable level of BPA is safe in our food supply.  One of the few other compounds that falls into the same category is the organochlorine contaminant dioxin! 

Another real concern surrounding BPA use, is that it is a xenoestrogen and in industrialised countries, we are already exposed to high background levels of xenoestrogens in our polluted air, drinking water and foods.  Xenoestrogens are strongly correlated with cancer risk, and the risk increases with cumulative load. 

In light of the above, why then you ask, has BPA been approved by our competent authorities for widespread use in food wrapping and baby's bottles? Why then indeed.  Well for US citizens it is possible—although we wait with bated breath—that change is on the horizon. But what about the people in Europe, who are at the mercy of the normally highly risk-conscious European regulators? 

Europe's key authority on matters relating to food, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), stalwartly refuses to admit that there's any problem with BPA and has on more than one occasion in the last few months re-iterated that there is no issue with safety. 

Now, with the view of an independent panel, and the FDA Science Board, running contrary to this, is EFSA going to U-turn? Let's face it, either way, their credibility will be damaged, but that is unimportant compared with the need to avoid unnecessary poisoning by one of the chemical and food industries' favourite chemicals.


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