One of the Most Common Chemicals Used in Modern Life Is Now Being Seen as a Health Threat
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While this study does not prove BPA can cause heart disease, explains co-author Tamara Galloway, professor of ecotoxicology at the University of Exeter, it shows that coincidence of exposure and cardiovascular disease is not "a statistical blip." Galloway and other researchers point out that the study only examines a "snapshot" and more information is needed to produce a comprehensive picture. But, says Galloway, "It adds a lot of realism" to earlier findings and underscores the need for further research.
Despite its limitations this study does begin to suggest that BPA may be a "systemic toxicant"—one that can adversely affect a broad range of vital body systems, says Bruce Lanphear, professor of children's health at Simon Fraser University.
When a pattern of toxicity begins to emerge, says Lanphear, "We have two options as a society. We can wait until we're swamped by the evidence to decide if we should allow continued use or we can act without waiting for crises."
Such decisions are now before state legislators in Washington and Oregon considering bills that would restrict the use of BPA in children's products. Connecticut, Maine, Chicago and Suffolk County, New York have adopted such legislation. Many other states have introduced comparable bills, and Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-CA, has introduced federal legislation that would restrict BPA in all food containers.
In hearings held in Olympia and Salem on January 11 and 13, ACC representative Steve Hentges told legislators that BPA "is not a risk to human health, including infants and children" and questioned the need for legislative action "given intense ongoing federal regulatory agency review."
At the Oregon hearing, North American Metal Packaging Alliance representative William Hoyle described BPA epoxy resins as vital to food safety, stressing that viable, reliable alternatives are unavailable. Some alternatives do exist, however, and are being used by U.S. and Japanese manufacturers.
On Friday the FDA announced it would actively support research and development of BPA alternatives. "We will facilitate the development of alternatives, particularly for infant formula and food can liners," said Commissioner Hamburg.
Meanwhile, manufacturers are not waiting for regulation. The six baby bottle manufacturers representing most of the U.S. market are already phasing out their BPA-based products. Meanwhile, major retailers, including Wal-Mart and Target, are offering increasing numbers of alternatives.
For now, it's largely up to consumers to decide whether or not they feel comfortable using BPA products. The FDA does not recommend that families change what or how they feed their babies, but it does recommend reducing BPA exposure by using alternative baby bottles.
The FDA's January 15 BPA recommendations are open to public comment for 60 days. Timing was not specified but the FDA plans to update its formal 2008 assessment. A "chemical action plan" on BPA is also expected from the EPA.