[Pharmwaste] FDA Suggests Bisphenol-A Is Safe at Low Levels; Some Public Health Experts Disagree

DeBiasi,Deborah dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Thu Dec 13 13:14:04 EST 2007


Chemical in Infant Formula Cans Sparks Concern

FDA Suggests Bisphenol-A Is Safe at Low Levels; Some Public Health
Experts Disagree

ABC News Medical Unit
Dec. 10, 2007 - 

It's a chemical that has never been proven to cause health problems in
humans in low doses. And it's one that the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration has said is safe. 

But an announcement last Wednesday by a research and advocacy group that
the chemical Bisphenol-A was found in the inner lining of infant formula
cans has a number of public health experts worried that babies consuming
the formula could experience long-term developmental effects. 

Bisphenol-A, or BPA for short, is a chemical mostly used in the
production of certain types of plastics and resins used to coat metal.
Because the chemical is so widely used, about 93 percent of people in
the United States show signs of exposure to it, according to the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. 

No human study has ever shown that this level of exposure causes harm.
But the Environmental Working Group raised a red flag Monday with a
report that the chemical was found in the inner linings of infant
formula cans  possibly increasing babies' BPA exposure. 

Some public health experts stopped short of labeling the chemical a
definite threat  though they noted the matter still warrants

"While no one knows for sure, the better science right now is on the
side of concern, rather than reassurance," said Dr. Alan Ducatman, chair
of community medicine at the West Virginia University School of Medicine
in Morgantown. 

But some are more adamant in their concerns. 

"Those of us who do research on brain and behavioral development believe
the public needs to be concerned," said Dr. Bernard Weiss, professor in
the department of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester
School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

Part of the problem, Weiss said, is that the FDA is "behind current
science and relies on old criteria." The approaches currently used are
not adequate to determine whether a real threat exists, he says. 

Frederick vom Saal, curators' professor at the University of Missouri
Division of Biological Sciences in Columbia, agreed. 

"Current statements by the FDA that BPA is safe are reminiscent of the
response of the FDA to new findings concerning Vioxx, which were ignored
by FDA officials until a whistle-blower went public that the FDA was
unwilling to acknowledge that there was evidence that Vioxx posed a
significant threat to human health," he said. 

Weight of the Evidence

But food manufacturers, who admit to using the chemical to line cans,
maintain that studies have thus far shown that exposure to the chemical
at certain levels is safe. In fact, a summary review of several
independent panels' conclusions, supported by the American Council on
Science and Health, suggests any risks are small. 

"It is & very unlikely that humans, including infants, will suffer any
adverse consequences, including endocrine-related effects, from current
exposures to BPA in food, drink, or other consumer products," the review

But it is known through animal studies that at certain levels, the
chemical mimics hormones such as estrogen  a quality that some suggest
may affect on the development of children who are exposed to it. 

"BPA acts like an estrogen, and infants are being exposed to this
hormonelike chemical at a particularly sensitive time, when
estrogen-dependent development is occurring rapidly," said Dr. Shanna
Swan, director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York. 

"The consensus of a group of scientists recently invited to participate
in an NIH/EPA sponsored conference was that BPA, at levels currently
found in people in the USA, has the potential to pose a threat to human
health, and that this risk is greatest for the fetus and young infant." 

Larry Glickman, section head of clinical epidemiology at Purdue
University's School of Veterinary Medicine in West Lafayette, Ind., said
animal studies he has conducted also suggest the possibility of other
effects of BPA exposure. 

In 2004, Glickman and his colleague Dr. Charlene Edinboro warned the FDA
about the potential dangers of the BPA lining in food cans. Their study
involved cats, not humans. But what they found was that an increase in
the use of cat food in BPA-lined cans coincided with a dramatic spike in
hyperthyroidism in cats. 

They also found that kittens fed from these cans had a 4.5 times greater
risk of hyperthyroidism later in life. 

"As an epidemiologist and a consumer, I think parents should be very
alarmed by this finding," he said. "Based on our findings, we suggested
that cat owners limit the feeding of foods packaged in lined food cans.
It seems like this recommendation should be extended to human foods,
especially for babies and young children." 

Still, Dr. John Spangler, professor of family medicine at Wake Forest
University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., noted that there
is a big difference between how animals and humans are affected by the

"Low-dose animal studies have been reassuring," he said, adding that
humans may metabolize BPA more rapidly than many animals. "This means
that peoples' bodies would be exposed to the chemical for a shorter
period of time than would the animals', implying that rodent studies
might overestimate harm to humans." 

What Parents Can Do

But because the health of children is the issue at hand, Spangler added,
consumers will be likely to react to any risk. 

"These issues also keep surfacing because children, as a group, are
exceptionally sensitive to environmental toxins," Spangler said. "One
can reasonably ask: 'If there is any level of risk, and if a chemical
alternative can be found that is safer, should children ever be exposed
to BPA?'" 

"As an epidemiologist, I would say the likelihood of risk to children is
very small. As a parent, I would say that I want BPA-free food cans for
my family." 

Swan agreed, noting that for the time being, concerned parents can take
steps to ensure that their children's exposure to BPA is minimal. 

"I would recommend that mothers breast-feed whenever possible," she
said. "If this is not possible, I would suggest they use powdered
formula, reconstituted with filtered water, and feed this to their baby
in glass or BPA-free bottles." 

"While it may take time to fully understand the health implications of
these exposures, parents who can make these changes are likely to reduce
risk and will not increase harm." 

Copyright (c) 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email:   dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address:  www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
PPCPs, EDCs, and Microconstituents
Mail:          P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA  23218 (NEW!)
Location:  629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA  23219
PH:         804-698-4028
FAX:      804-698-4032

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