NTP Issues Final Report – Bisphenol A or BPA Exposures May Harm Babies and Kids

Finally, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program (“NTP”) has issued its final report on bisphenol A (BPA).  And the NTP expressed some concern about the potential health effects associated with BPA exposuers at the current levels to which we are exposed.

For background, tThe NTP uses a 5 point scale of concern – negligible, minimal, some, concern and serious.  The NTP’s final report on BPA found:

  • The NTP has some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to BPA.

  • The NTP has minimal concern for effects on the mammary gland and an earlier age for puberty for females in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures to BPA.

  • The NTP has negligible concern that exposure of pregnant women to BPA will result in fetal or neonatal mortality, birth defects or reduced birth weight and growth in their offspring.

  • The NTP has negligible concern that exposure to BPA will cause reproductive effects in non-occupationally exposed adults and minimal concern for workers exposed to higher levels in occupational settings.

In connection with the report, NTP Associate Director John Bucher, Ph.D., stated “There remains considerable uncertainty whether the changes seen in the animal studies are directly applicable to humans, and whether they would result in clear adverse health effects.  But we have concluded that the possibility that BPA may affect human development cannot be dismissed.” 


How should consumers react and what should they do?  Well, the NTP doesn’t provide much advice.  CERHR Director Michael Shelby, Ph.D., stated “if parents are concerned, they can make the personal choice to reduce exposures of their infants and children to BPA.”


Will this end the debate?  No.  In fact, I recently go into a debate on the subject after Mommy Myth Buster posted that BPA being harmful was a myth.  I happen to disagree that it is a myth.  I don’t think uncertainty makes something a myth.  That being said, I do think, however, that it is clear that the science on the issue is uncertain.  The low dose animal studies are just that, animal studies.  Making those studies relevant to humans involves analysis and assumptions.  And the animal studies are not necessarily relevant to humans – rodents, for example, process BPA differently so whether the adverse health effects seen in rodents apply to humans is not yet answered. 


But reports continue to document adverse health effects associated with BPA exposure.  Just this week, scientists at the Yale School of Medicine have found that “exposure to low-dose BPA may have widespread effects on brain structure and function.”  The study found that low dose BPA exposure may lead to disruption in memory and learning, and depression.  Or, as TreeHugger put it – “BPA may make you stupid and depressed.”  What is important about this study is that it involved monkeys – and monkeys process BPA more like humans, as opposed to rodents.  This is the first time BPA has been linked to health problems in primates. 


The study’s authors suggeste that the EPA should lower its current acceptable level for human exposure to BPA.


The FDA continues to maintain that BPA is safe.  The FDA recently issued its draft report declaring BPA to be safe.  Specifically, the FDA’s draft report states the “FDA has concluded that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.”  The draft report was issued in advanced of a meeting scheduled for September 16 – methinks the meeting will be very interesting . . .


And the industry?  The American Chemistry Council responded to the NTP’s report with the statement that “There is no direct evidence that exposure to bisphenol A adversely affects human reproduction or development.” 


So, what can a parent do if the experts can’t decide?  The health effects from very small dosages that only recently could be detected are just now being understood.  Recent research has shown harmful effects in animals at low levels (levels consistent with human exposure).  Emerging, substantial evidence indicates that BPA can harm laboratory animals at concentrations below the daily levels to which most of us are already exposed.  In fact, the Chapel Hill panel’s consensus statement evaluated the strength of data from more than 700 BPA studies and labeled as “confident” its assessment that BPA at low doses has had a negative effect on experimental animals.  The panel concluded that BPA exposure in the womb can permanently alter genes of animals, impair organ function in was that persist into adulthood, and trigger brain, behavioral and reproductive effects, including diminished sperm production. 


I think that with the NTP finding “some concern” – or a 3 on the NTP’s 5 point scale – caution is in order.  I think it is prudent to reduce exposure to BPA for pregnant women or women trying to get pregnant, babies and young children.  With so many alternatives on the market, why not minimize the risk?  As my mom use to safe, better safe than sorry.

 As Scott M. Belcher, PhD, Associate Professor and University of Cincinnati and lead researcher in BPA says, “You have to estimate the relative benefit and understand the possible risks, or the fact that the risk is unclear because the science is lacking.  There are many “maybes” in the equation.  But what is known is that BPA has estrogen-like activity.”  His conclusion?  “Based on my knowledge of the scientific data, there is a reason for caution.  I have made a decision for myself not to use polycarbonate plastic water bottles.” 

 


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