Massachusetts Issues Public Health Advisory to Parents About Bisphenol A (BPA)

bottle feeding babyToday the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued an advisory for bisphenol A. The DPH specifically advises parents of childrens up to 2 years old to avoid baby products containing bisphenol A (BPA) for making or storing infant food or formula. And the statement also warns pregnant women to steer clear of canned foods and beverages because of the BPA in the epoxy lining, which may result in fetal exposure.

If you aren’t caught up on the BPA debate, you might want to read some BPA basics.

It is interesting that the Massachusetts DPH is issuing this advisory just a few weeks after the leaked memorandum from a meeting of the canned food and beverage industry in which the industry representatives described a pregnant woman who would tout the safety of BPA to be the “holy grail.” Hmmm  . . perhaps not in Massachusetts.

To avoid BPA, you need to avoid polycarbonate plastic containers for storing food and drink. This means polycarbonate plastic baby bottles. But it also means the 5 gallon water bottles used for home water delivery as well.

You also find BPA in the epoxy linings of most canned food and beverage in the United States. Instead, go for fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred. In terms of infant formula, powdered is generally better than liquid, although it is my understanding the Similac 32 ounce plastic container for prepared liquid formula is BPA free.

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Ready to piss off a mom blogger? Seek a pregnant woman to consume BPA lined canned goods

Looking for a job? If you are pregnant, I’ve got one for you:

WANTED: Young, pregnant mother to act as spokesperson. Must be willing to drink liquids and eat foods from metal canned foods and beverages. Must also execute full release and waiver for any and all birth defects or other harm suffered by fetus.

Think I’m kidding? Unfortunately, I’m not.

woman opening  canned goodsAn unbelievable memo summarizing a May 28, 2009 meeting of canned food and beverage industry representatives to combat the legislative efforts to restrict the use of bisphenol A (BPA) seeks the “holy grail” spokesperson – a “pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA.” The meeting minutes were obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the points verified by John Rost, chairman of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance (NAMPA), who only quibbled with the minutes because the meeting was 5 hours long. Kathleen Roberts, a lobbyist representing NAMPA, organized the meeting and also confirmed the accuracy of the notes, reported the Washington Post.

And, if the pregnant woman doesn’t convince you to drink the punch, well then, they will scare you. They will argue that without BPA, you won’t have access to baby food – ignoring that other packaging methods exist. And if scaring you doesn’t work, then they will focus on “the impact of BPA bans on minorities (Hispanic and African American) and poor” since, apparently they believe these groups eat more canned food but don’t care about the health of their children?

If you didn’t know, BPA is found in the linings of virtually all canned foods and beverages in the US, except for Eden’s Organics beans. So, you get dosed with BPA every time you consume metal canned foods and beverages, such that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found BPA in 93% of us.

BPA is linked to a host of adverse health effects. It is an endocrine disruptor – meaning it interferes with the body’s hormone system. A recent study found prenatal exposure to BPA feminizes male monkeys. There are numerous studies documenting adverse health effects in animals. Even if you don’t want to believe the more than 100 hundred studies that have found that BPA causes hormone disruption and other health effects, the National Toxicology Program found “some concern” (a 3 on its 5 point scale) for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current levels of exposure. And a large study of humans found BPA exposure linked to heart disease and diabetes.

So, um, yeah, let’s have a pregnant woman tout the benefits of BPA.

I’m so pissed. How stupid do these industry representatives think we are? They think that if they pick the right “messaging” (which the industry will discover through at $500,000 survey of consumer perceptions and messaging), we will ignore the growing body of evidence of adverse health effects associated with BPA exposure? That we can’t separate the fact from the fiction?

Hmm, you know, I’m perfectly capable of analyzing a press release. Take NAMPA’s press release following the Milwaukee’s JS story, in which NAMPA whines that the industry’s viewpoint is ignored by media and that governmental agencies consistently determine that BPA is safe. Well, the FDA’s assessment of BPA’s safety has been roundly criticized, even by the FDA’s own Scientific Advisory Board, which found that the FDA has created a “false sense of security” about BPA’s safety. That’s right, a FALSE sense of security. And evidence just surfaced that the FDA personnel were just too cozy with industry lobbyists and representatives. Oh, and by the way, although the National Toxicology Program isn’t a regulatory body, it is highly respecte. And it did NOT conclude that BPA was safe. Health Canada didn’t conclude BPA was safe.

So, instead of spending money to explore alternatives, the industry wants to spend money convincing us women (because, well, we do make most of the household buying decisions) that BPA is safe using a pregnant woman. Yep, that’s right, you will be persuaded by a young mother telling you BPA is safe.

Or, the industry will scare us that without BPA, we will die from contaminated canned foods. Well, Japan has made significant strides in alternatives to BPA containing epoxy resins for canned foods. And, Eden’s Foods uses oleoresin for its beans (and yes, I know that oleoresin won’t work for tomato-based or other acidic produts).  Or, they will scare people that we won’t have canned foods. Well, instead of canned, you can choose fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred in glass, or, my least favorite option, a BPA free plastic.

The memo indicates that the industry representatives and companies involved – Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Crown, North American Metal Packaging Alliance, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), American Chemistry Council, Del Monte – want a “grassroots” effort. So let’s give them a grassroots effort of mommy bloggers speaking out about BPA, the potential health effects, and the options for BPA-free products.

Let’s not play nice with our children’s health.

Let’s raise our voices, moms! We got BPA out of most baby bottles. Let’s tell the industry enough is enough. Don’t try to fool us – do something proactive instead. Find a solution.

Are you ready to join us? Speaking out, my friend Sommer from Green and Clean Mom says “Talk to the Hand”. She’s got a plethora of Tweets about what we think about the industry’s back door meeting. But I love how she points out the irony that companies love mommy bloggers when they want us to sell something and be brand evangelists, but that we are hysterical and just don’t understand the science when we question product safety or environmental standards.

SafeMama says manufacturers are getting scared because we are smart. We educated ourselves about the hazards of BPA, and are seeking alternatives and demanding legislation.

Jenn Savedge (author of The Green Parent: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Living
and The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen’s Guide to Saving the Planet) at Mother Nature Network urges us to prove industry wrong.

And my friend Alicia from The Soft Landing (with a fabulous online store of BPA free items, among other things), asks who are the fear mongerers now? After accusing us of being fear mongerers, the industry representatives have decided to turn the tables to encourage their primary customers, women between 21 and 35, to stick with canned foods. And she cries foul.

Lisa from Retro Housewife . . . Goes Green reminds us that the FDA, tasked with protecting the safety of food contact items, is in bed with the BPA industry and wants us to use the power we have to stop this travesty.

Katy, over at Non Toxic Kids, is angry. Really angry. She wants green mamas moved to action.

This post received a Great Green Post Award from Green Moms Review!

The Great Green Post Award

Emails Show FDA Was Very Cozy With Lobbyists on Bisphenol A

bottle feeding babyIt is so disappointing to learn that yes, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) really has not done its job when it comes to bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a hormone disruptor and has been linked to other health effects. We find it in polycarbonate plastic and the linings of canned foods and beverages. (Need more of a refresher on BPA – I’ve got one.)  

If you haven’t followed BPA over the last year or so, the FDA maintains that BPA is safe, even though an independent board, the FDA’s Science Advisory Board, soundly and completely renounced the FDA’s determination. Separately, the National Toxicology Program (NTP) found “some concern” (a 3 on its 5 point scale) for certain health endpoints for fetuses, infants and children at current BPA exposure levels. And, since those reports, additional research has been published reporting concerns with BPA, including male monkeys exposed to BPA prenatally acting more like females and that BPA slows the transition of tadpoles into frogs. 

Also, this week, researchers found that drinking cold liquids out of polycarbonate plastic bottles (the type of plastic that leaches BPA) increases BPA in the body.  Specifically, Harvard University researchers and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found a 70% increase in the amount of BPA detected in the urine of college students who drank from plastic bottles made with BPA. The students drank from stainless for one week (to clean them out) and then out of polycarbonate plastic for a week. And in only one week, BPA concentrations rose dramaticallly.  

And yet, the FDA maintains BPA is safe. But FDA has apparently sold out completely. I previously questioned whether science was for sale in the context of FDA and BPA when the chair received a $5 million donation for his research foundation. But the level of coziness between the FDA and lobbyists reported by the Journal Sentinel indicates that the FDA has no interest whatsoever in protecting our most vulnerable population, our babies. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reviewed documents provided pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. It reports that those documents clearly demonstrate that the FDA relied on industry lobbyists to review scientific research. As an example, the Journal Sentinel:

 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 reported communications are disturbing, especially since the review of scientific reports by governmental agencies should be free of this sort of coziness and influence. I recognize that politics, unfortunately, plays a role in our government agencies, but this amount of influence is disgusting. And it was just the industry lobbyists. The Journal Sentinel reports that non-industry lobbyists were not given the same sort of access, confirming this by reviewing the communications and talking to various individuals and groups.


The communications go on. The Journal Sentinel reports as follows: 

In other e-mails, trade lobbyists notified FDA officials about upcoming news reports on BPA and advised them how to respond. 

“Laura and Mitch,” Hentges wrote in an e-mail to FDA administrators. “I send this note to give you a head’s up on something we understand is coming next week.” 

The item was a report from the Environmental Working Group, an activist organization working to ban BPA. 

“At this time we have no information on what information they will report or how it will be publicized,” Hentges wrote. “However, we can anticipate that it will be widely publicized as a serious food safety issue. If correct, it might be appropriate for FDA to consider issuing a statement to reassure consumers about the safety of the food supply.” 

You may recall that yes, indeed, the FDA issued a statement concerning the safety of the food supply and BPA. 

So, what do you think? Do you think this is too cozy?

The Dose and the Timing Make the Poison: Mystery of Thalidomide

pregnancy avoid thalidomideIn many debates over the safety of current chemicals of concern such as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and other hormone disruptors, people will make the argument that any chemical, even water, can be toxic because the dose makes the poison. Which is a simple statement of a basic tenet of toxicology. But with some chemicals, namely hormone disruptors (those chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system), many research scientists believe that the statement should be more correctly put as the dose and the timing make the poison. In other words, it isn’t just the amount to which we are exposed, it is when we are exposed – and exposure during certain stages of fetal development is particularly harmful.

The recent announcement of the discovery of mechanism by which thalidomide caused limb defects illustrates this principle. Scientists just solved the 50 year old mystery of how thalidomide caused limb defects.

You may remember thalidomide. Thalidomide was given to women while pregnant to relieve morning sickness. Unfortunately, their babies were born with stunted limbs or sometimes no limbs at all. Thalidomide was identified as the cause, but how it caused these defects was not known. Until just recently.

Scientists have just discovered that a component of the drug prevents the growth of new blood vessels in developing babies, stunting limb growth. As explained by Dr. Neil Vargesson, the lead research, thalidomide was taken around five to nine weeks into a pregnancy when a baby’s limbs are still forming and the blood vessels involved in that process are still growing.  He added, “at this time of the pregnancy the rest of the embryo is unharmed because the blood vessels elsewhere are stable and mature.”

Why am I even talking about this? Because it clearly illustrates that how we determine whether chemicals are safe must take into account how they affect fetuses and children. It isn’t the dose alone – it is the timing. What is safe for an adult may not be safe for a child, even when the dose is scaled for body weight.

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What is bisphenol A (BPA)?

bpa free“What is BPA?” is a top topic over at Mamapedia.  And, today I got asked again what bisphenol A (BPA) by a colleague at work. And since I thought that I talked incessantly about BPA, lead and other chemicals at work and that everybody already knew what it was, it surprised me. So, I thought I would answer the question “what is BPA” in the context of parenting.

And I promise only a little tiny bit of chemisty.

Basically, BPA is an organic compound.  It is a basic monomer, or building block, of polycarbonate plastic.  Polycarbonate plastic is a clear, shatterproof hard plastic used for lots of things, including food storage containers and often baby bottles. For example, most 5 gallon water jugs are polycarbonate plastic. 

BPA is also used in epoxy resins. Epoxy resins are used, among other uses, to line virtually all canned foods and beverages in the United States. 

We are exposed to BPA when it leaches into our food from the linings. Migration of BPA from the linings of canned foods has be well documented. BPA also leaches from polycarbonate plastic, particularly when the storage container is heated or hot food stuff is added to the storage container, when harsh detergents are used, or when acidic substances are stored in polycarbonate. 

BPA is also an endocrine disruptor, which means basically that it interferes with the body’s hormone signaling system.  It mimics the hormone estrogen. In fact, for some history, BPA was investigated along with DES in the 1930’s as a synthetic hormone treatment for various conditions, but DES was chosen over BPA. 

Virtually all Americans have BPA in their systems.  The Centers of Disease Control’s biomonitoring has shown that 93% of us have BPA in us. Whether the low levels are sufficient to cause harm has been the subject of must debate, which I’ve blogged about repeatedly.  The National Toxicology Program (NTP) has found “some concern” (a 3 on the NTP’s 5 point scale) for effects on the brain, behavior and prostrate gland in fetuses, infants and children at current levels of exposure.  The FDA’s conclusion that BPA is safe has been roundly criticized, including by the board of scientific experts convened by the FDA to assess FDA’s report. The experts accused FDA of creating a false sense of security by overlooking a wide range of important studies. 

In addition to being an endocrine disruptor, a large study of humans found the exposure to high levels of BPA increases the risk of diabetes 2 and heart disease. 

So that’s basically what BPA is, and where you are most likely to find it.  And a little bit about the debate over BPA’s safety. If you want more on the science of doubt and the BPA, I urge you to read Fast Company’s great article.  

If you want to minimize your exposure to BPA, you need to skip polycarbonate plastic.  Not sure how to identify polycarbonate plastic? Polycarbonate plastic falls in the #7 recycling code (really a resin identification code).  Number 7 means “other plastic” (meaning other than plastics 1 through 6). So polycarbonate plastic will be identified by #7, but not all #7 is polycarbonate. In place of polycarbonate plastic, try glass or stainless steel instead for food storage and drink containers, like Kleen Kanteen. For 5 gallon water jugs, you can try glass if you have it in your community.  I’ve got some simple steps to reduce your baby’s exposure to BPA.  But, for baby and kid products, I urge you to use Z Recommends guide for evaluating safer products.  

For canned foods and beverages, some Eden’s Food canned goods (not the tomato products) are BPA free. Instead of canned, use fresh, frozen, dried, or jarred. It sounds like it is hard, but trust me, you can get almost anything in a container other than polycarbonate plastic.

Two Common Preservatives May Have Hormone Disrupting Effects – Should We Be Concerned?

baby in nestYou may have heard about bisphenol A (BPA) in polycarbonate plastic and canned foods and beverages and know that it is of concern because it appears to be a hormone disruptor.

Your probably know that phthalates in personal care and cleaning products are also linked to hormone disrupting effects.

But do you ever wonder what other compounds in our food and consumer products have hormone disrupting effects?  And how all these compounds work together, or if they do?  

So, what are hormone disruptors?  The endocrine system releases hormones which are chemical messengers.  They are received by receptors which then act on the message received.  Endocrine disruptors interfere with this chemical messenger system, disrupting the messenger. 

If we are exposed to many different endocrine disruptors, what is the effect?  And how many are we exposed to?  Does it matter?  

study published in December found two common food additives had estrogenic effects in the lab got me wondering about it, and I’m still working on it.  And before I tell you about the study, this study does NOT show that the two compounds have estrogenic effects in laboratory animals or humans – the study involved studying the compounds in cultures.  Okay, so this study found that propyl gallate and 4-hexyl resorcinal both showed estrogenic activity in laboratory cultures.  Propyl gallate is a preservative used to prevent fats and oils from spoiling.  It is found in all sorts of foods, including baked goods, shortening, dried meats, candy, mayonnaise and dried milk. 4-hexyl resorcinol, is used to prevent shrimp, lobsters, and other shellfish from discoloring. 

The researchers caution that further studies on laboratory animals must be conducted before any conclusions can be reached.  Effects shown in the laboratory do not always mean that any effect will be seen in laboratory animals or humans. 

But, following the controversy surround the No More Toxic Tub report from the Environmental Working Group, I’m even more concerned about the combined effects of the numerous chemicals.  Paul Foster, deputy director of the National Toxicology Program Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, was reported as expressing concern over the mixtures of estrogenic compounds.  “There are examples where you can take dose levels of compounds on their own that won’t produce an effect, but when you put these compounds together, you may get something different,” he said. 

What I found more alarming was the report that 
“Foster said people should keep in mind that they already ingest significant numbers of fairly potent estrogens in their diets by consuming foods like tofu and milk, so findings like these shouldn’t necessarily scare people until more research has been conducted.” 
What scared me was not his focus on understanding the context of the research, but the seeming benign statement that it is okay becdause we already ingest “significant numbers of fairly potent estrogens.”
Okay, so perhaps I should take comfort in that – perhaps there isn’t much risk from the preservatives, especially since there are naturally occurring compounds that have estrogenic activity (phytoestrogens).
Yet, the FDA’s record of protecting us does not give me comfort.  For example, the FDA has continued to fail to act on BPA, another hormone disruptor, used in food contact storage containers such as baby bottles and the linings of virtually all canned foods and beverages.  In 2008, the FDA was criticized by the FDA Science Advisory Board, an independent advisory board, for ignoring critical evidence in determing the safety of BPA. 
 So, I’m not reassured.  I remained concern about not only the impact to me and my children, but how these chemicals will affect future generations.  And how we don’t seem to really know all of the sources of exposure to these compounds.  So, I’ll keep trying to limit exposure to those hormone disruptors that I know about, and for which there are alternatives available.  Instead of polycarbonate plastic, I’ll use stainless steel or glass.  Instead of canned foods, I’ll use fresh, frozen, dried or jarred.  Instead of phthalates, I’ll look for products without phthalates, meaning no synthetic fragrances.  I’ll do the best I can. 

FDA Subcommitee Harshly Critical of Draft Safety Report on Bisphenol A (BPA)

babyI recently expressed concern about whether the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Subcommitee reviewing the FDA’s draft safety assessment of the use of bisphenol A (BPA) could provide a fair review.  I expressed concern because it had been revealed that Subcommittee Chairman Prof. Philbert had failed to disclose a significant donation from pro-plastics contributor Charles Gelman to the chairman’s research center at the Univ. of Michigan.  To resolve that question, the FDA Chair has issued a letter stating that he agrees with the findings of the review conducted by William McConagh a of FDA’s Office of Accountability and Integrity.  That review found that the $5,000,000 donation made by Charles Gelman and the unrestricted grant to the University of Michigan from Dow Chemical for a risk study of dioxin do not require Prof. Philbert to recuse himself but he nevertheless recommends that Prof. Philbert refrain from voting on the questions before the Board relating to BPA.

In any event, imagine my surprise to learn that the Subcommittee’s scientific peer-review report roundly criticizes the FDA’s draft BPA safety assessment.  So perhaps science isn’t for sale after all, at least with respect to the Subcommitee.

Okay, to catch you up, low level exposure to BPA has been linked to hormone disrupting effects in laboratory animals.  BPA is the key monomer of polycarbonate plastic, used for baby bottles.  BPA is also found in the epoxy resins used to line virtually all canned foods and beverages.  BPA can leach out of polycarbonate plastic and the epoxy resins and into your food.  Whether the effects seen in laboratory animals are likely to occur in humans based upon current levels of exposure is subject to much intense debate in the scientific community.  The National Toxicology Program (NTP) issued a report finding the risk a 3 on the NTP’s 5 point scale for 3 health endpoints.  The FDA has maintained that BPA is safe.

In August of this year, the FDA issued a draft report finding BPA safe.  Then, the FDA convenened a Subcommitee to review the draft report.  I thought that the Subcommitee would be, in essence a rubber stamp.

But surprise, surprise, the FDA’s Subcommitee does not agree with the draft safety assessment on BPA.  In fact, it is pretty critical of it.  It finds that the “draft FDA report does not articulate reasonable and appropriate scientific support for the criteria applied to select data for use in the assessment.  Specifically, the Subcommittee does not agree that the large number of non-GLP [good laboratory practice] studies should be excluded from use in the safety assessment.”  The report goes on to state “[c]oupling together the available qualitative and quantitative information (including the application of uncertainty factors) provides a sufficient scientific basis to conclude that the Margins of Sfatey defined by the FDA as ‘adequate’ are, in fact, inadequate.”

Okay, so what does that mean?

Well, what it means is that the peer reviewed assessment of the FDA’s draft report on BPA is telling the FDA that the draft report is inadequate.  The Subcommitee has particular criticisms – it finds that the FDA didn’t use enough infant formula samples and didn’t adequately account of variations among the samples.  It also finds that the FDA didn’t take into account multiple sources of BPA exposure.  But it also is particularly critical of the FDA’s wholesale discounting of studies found adequate by the NTP.  And, I think that this is most important.  The Subcommittee harshly criticizes the FDA for discounting or failing to consider scores of studies that have linked BPA to adverse health effects in animals.

Is the debate over?  No.  The Subcommitee’s report will be considered as part of a briefing on October 31, 2008.  What is likely is that more research will be approved.  And, in the interim, the FDA has issued a Statement on the release of the Subcommitee’s report, pointing out that “the present consensus among regulatory agenices in the United Sates, Canada, Europe and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies.”

In light of the animal studies and the conclusion from the NTP finding “some” concern for effects on the prostate, brain and behavior, you may not want to take that risk.  So, if you want to try to avoid BPA, skip polycarbonate plastic.  Lots of alternatives exist – and don’t cost any more than polycarbonate plastic.  So you can play it safe.  Also, instead of canned foods and beverages, go for jarred, fresh, frozen or dried.

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The FDA and Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles – Science for Sale

Baby bottleAnd so the bisphenol A (BPA) debate goes on.  Is science for sale?  It seems more and more like it is.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration questioning whether the FDA has been unduly influenced by the plastic industry in its continued assertion that BPA is safe.  The letter follows the news that the research center of the chairman of the FDA’s BPA advisory panel received a $5 million donation from a retired medical device manufacturer that believes BPA is “perfectly safe.”  The $5 million donation from Charles Gerlman occurred in July, the same month that chairman Martin Philbert was appointed to chair the FDA’s BPA subcommittee.  Philbert did not disclose to the FDA the donation to the institute that he founded and co-directs.  Prior to the donation, the institute’s annual budget was $210,000.  And who says that science isn’t for sale? 

The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent the letter on October 15, 2008 and the response is due by October 29, 2008.  I’m curious how the FDA will respond, although I’m not holding my breath because the CPSC still hasn’t responded to the letter sent by the same committee on BPA in April.

The subcommittee that Philbert chairs will decide if the conclusions in the FDA’s draft report need to be amended.  That report found BPA safe, despite the report from the NTP finding “some concern” (a 3 on the 5 point scale) for certain health endpoints – effects on the prostate gland and brain, and for behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children.  But the FDA’s draft report has been subject to much scrutiny.  And, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also reported yesterday that the draft FDA report finding BPA safe was largely written by those with a financial stake in the decision – the plastics industry and others.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The newspaper reviewed the body of evidence that the task force considered. It found memos with entire sections blacked out, reviews commissioned by the American Plastics Council, an arm of the American Chemistry Council, and reviews completed by consulting firms with clients who havefinancial interests in the sale of bisphenol A.

Many of these reviews of individual studies are at odds with the NTP’s reviews of the same studies.

For example, one study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense looked at the effects of bisphenol A on prostate development in rats.

The FDA called it “severely limited,” in contrast to the NTP’s review, which labeled it of “high utility.”

Another government-funded study, which also looked at the effects of the chemical on the prostate, again was considered of “high utility” by the NTP for its evaluation, and it was deemed “very limited” by the FDA.

The FDA subcommittee’s statement is expected shortly.  It is due to be presented at a meeting on October 31, 2008.   Here’s hoping the FDA gets it right, but I’m not holding my breath.  In the meantime, Ill do what I can to avoid BPA, from not using polycarbonate plastic to skipping canned foods and beverages. 

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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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New York Times Says Don’t Worry About BPA Leaching From Polycarbonate Plastic – I Disagree

I’m more than a little annoyed at The New York Times.  Without elaborating on the first reason much, the NYT published just a dumb article about BlogHer ’08.  Then, the second reason I’m annoyed, the NYT publishes Tierney’s 10 Things to Scratch from Your Worry List, and includes bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic bottles.

Tierney contends that BPA in polycarbonate plastic bottles isn’t a problem.  Although he doesn’t specifically include plastic baby bottles, his comments necessarily include them:

For years panels of experts repeatedly approved the use of bisphenol-a, or BPA, which is used in polycarbonate bottles and many other plastic products. Yes, it could be harmful if given in huge doses to rodents, but so can the natural chemicals in countless foods we eat every day. Dose makes the poison.

But this year, after a campaign by a few researchers and activists, one federal panel expressed some concern about BPA in baby bottles. Panic ensued. Even though there was zero evidence of harm to humans,  Wal-Mart pulled BPA-containing products from its shelves, and politicians began talking about BPA bans. Some experts fear product recalls that could make this the most expensive health scare in history.

And it is just irritating, to say the least.  His summary ignores the countless animal studies that have associated low level BPA exposure to adverse health effects.  His summary also ignores that fetuses and babies – the group that the federal panel did indeed express “some concern” over (a 3 on the 5 point scale they use) – don’t have the necessary enzyme to process BPA – an enzyme a healthy adult has.  Although, I should point out, that the European Food Safety Authority recently issued its opinion that BPA is safe, and based its opinion in part on the conclusion that the mom would metabolize any BPA before it could be passed to the fetus.  His summary also ignores that BPA is found in the linings of all canned foods and beverages with very limited exceptions, including infant formula, so that a formula fed baby will get BPA from the baby bottle and the formula container.  (And, to be fair, I should also point out that perhaps he is including this in his analysis but it isn’t mentioned.)

Adiri Natural NurserSo the risk may be small in comparison to other risks.  That being said, and even with the opinion of the EFSA, for infant, is it a risk worth taking?  To me, with so many options available for BPA-free bottle, it seems like a silly risk to take.  When you consider that BPA was considered along with DES as a synthetic estrogen for problem pregnancies, it is probably a risk no parent wants to knowingly take.  We know that DES was chosen over BPA and declared safe for pregnant women . . . look where that got us. 

Okay, so perhaps Tierney is right.  We shouldn’t worry about because we know the solution – choose to avoid BPA containing polycarbonate plastic.  That’s the Adiri Natural Nurser in the photo – but there are lots of options for BPA-free baby bottles. 

My conclusion – Tierney can keep his old Nalgene bottle.  I’ll choose my Klean Kanteen.  And, by the way, TreeHugger debunks 4 more of his 10 things Tierney claims you don’t have to worry about.


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