FDA Finds BPA Safe & Why Andy’s Take Pisses Me Off

Baby drinking from plastic bottleYou may have already read that last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its draft report finding that bisphenol A (BPA) is safe.   The draft report states “FDA has concluded that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.”  If you are new to the BPA debate, you might want to review these summaries of the problem of BPA in baby bottles and canned foods and beverages, including infant formula

FDA’s position is not really a surprise.  The draft assessment was released in advance of a meeting of experts in September to discuss the issues.

The same day, Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, published his Andy’s Take on BPA:  The Science, Evaluation and Safety.  And I find Andy’s Take extremely annoying, paternalistic and smug.  It starts off with a seemingly good statement that suggests that perhaps the FDA might consider caution is in order:

Since the splitting of the atom to now global warming, society has come to realize that, regarding science and technology, with progress comes peril!

With references to the atom bomb and global warming, you would think that the FDA would urge a cautious approach.  I mean, really, with global warming, weren’t we told it wasn’t a problem for years?

But then Andy’s Take goes on:

My Take on this is that science creates these products and science must inform us of their risks.  With regard to BPA thus far, the science FDA has reviewed does not justify recommending that anyone discontinue using these products . . .

And it just bothers me.  He seems to have it completely backwards.  If science creates these products, then science should inform us of their risks.  But not after the fact.  Science should inform us BEFORE we put the products on the shelves. 

And more importantly, it is interesting that he emphasizes “the science FDA has reviewed. . .”  I suppose that gives the FDA the out – if it hasn’t reviewed the science, then it can continue to say it is safe.  And the FDA has been criticized because its review of the BPA science conveniently ignores over a hundred peer reviewed studies involving low dose exposures to BPA in laboratory animals, while relying exclusively on industry-funded studies.  And these studies include those funded by the well-regarded National Toxicology Program.  If those studies are considered, then the margin of safety heavily relied on by the FDA does not exist.

Okay, so I understand that isn’t how it happens in the United States.  We don’t require safety to be demonstrated before an item is sold.  But it just galls me that Andy’s Take doesn’t include any recognition that a parent might be concerned . . . especially since that FDA’s assessment underestimates that amount of BPA ingested by babies.  The FDA’s own analyses of infant formula show that prepared liquid formula can contain BPA as high as 13 parts per billion (ppb) BPA, yet in this draft assessment, the FDA uses 2.5 ppb.

I think the September meeting of experts will be very interesting.  In the interim, don’t you want to ask “Andy” whether his 6 grandchildren used or use polycarbonate plastic bottles that may leach BPA? 

My own conclusion, as I’ve previously stated, I’d rather be safe than sorry.  With so many available alternates for polycarbonate plastic bottles and canned foods and beverages, why take the risk?  I’m not advocating elimination of polycarbonate plastic from all applications – I certainly don’t see a risk of exposure from polycarbonate plastic in helmets or DVDs – but when it comes to food contact items, I’ll take the alternatives. 


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