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Safety of Plastic Bottle Additive BPA - FDA to Re-examine Ruling


Earlier this year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had ruled that the amount of bisphenol-A (BPA) in containers and baby bottles did not pose a health risk. There was much criticism of that decision and the FDA has decided to re-examine its ruling.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical widely used to produce polycarbonate, a hard plastic. More than 2 million metric tons of BPA were produced worldwide in 2003. There is an increase in demand of 6% to 10% annually. It is used extensively in epoxy resins lining food and beverage containers and as a monomer in polycarbonate plastics in many consumer products. There is widespread and continuous exposure to BPA, mostly through food but also drinking water, dental sealants, dermal exposure, and inhalation of household dusts. More than 90% of the US population have detectable levels of BPA.

A September article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that adults with high urine levels of BPA were more prone to cardiovascular disease, liver-enzyme abnormalities, and diabetes. The authors stated that these findings add to the evidence suggesting adverse effects of low-dose BPA in animals. They also suggest that independent replication and follow-up studies are needed to confirm these findings and to provide evidence on whether the associations are causal.

As noted in the New York Times, opposition to the FDA's decision has been overwhelming and because of this:

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"This was the F.D.A. finally acknowledging that its assertion that BPA is safe may not be correct," said Dr. Anila Jacob, a physician and senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based advocacy group. "Still, we don't think it's enough. With millions of babies being exposed to this chemical on a daily basis, every day we continue to delay removing this chemical from baby products is another day millions of infants continue to be exposed."

Parents may, as a precaution, wish to use alternatives for their bottle-fed babies. Alternative include glass bottles and BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups. Avoid heating formula in polycarbonate plastic bottles. If your baby is formula-fed, you can consult your pediatrician about switching to powdered infant formula.

Other choices include switching to frozen or fresh vegetables. Use glass, porcelain and stainless-steel containers, especially for hot foods and liquids.

No timetable has been given as to how the FDA will proceed with its BPA re-examination.

JAMA. 2008;300(11):1303-1310. Published online September 16, 2008
FDA Statement, October 28, 2008
New York Times