What parent could not be concerned upon hearing worrisome reports that bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in many polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins such as plastic baby bottles, is dangerous to their newborns. The federal government and others are now studying this issue, but are not reaching the same conclusions as each other. Most recently, a final report released September 3, 2008, by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), finding that BPA is of some concern for effects on development of the prostate gland and brain and for behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children.
Some concern is the midpoint of a five-level scale, ranging from negligible to serious, that the NTP uses. Advice from toxicologists includes the following: Watch for the numeral 7 on the bottom of plastic containers. That often means they contain BPA. Don’t microwave plastic food containers made with BPA. Better to use glass or porcelain. Watch out for canned foods for children. Search for baby bottles and other baby products that are BPA-free.
The report provides the NTP’s current opinion on BPA’s potential to cause harm to human reproduction or development. The NTP is an interagency federal research program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health. In contrast, last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a Draft Assessment of Bisphenol A for Use in Food Contact Applications for peer review and public comment concluding that the small amounts of BPA that leach out of containers and into food or milk are not dangerous.
The FDA will hold a public meeting of its BPA subcommittee of the FDA Science Board on September 16 to discuss this FDA draft assessment. A new study by the Yale School of Medicine is cause for even more concern. In tests on primates, researchers found that BPA causes the loss of connections between brain cells that could cause memory or learning problems and depression.
The NTP report also expresses minimal concern that BPA exposure will affect development of the mammary gland or accelerate puberty in females. The NTP expressed negligible concern that exposure of pregnant woman to BPA will result in fetal or neonatal mortality, birth defects or reduced birth weight and growth in their offspring. The NTP also expressed negligible concern that exposure to BPA causes reproductive effects in non-occupationally exposed adults and minimal concern for workers exposed to higher levels in occupational settings.
Some states are considering bills to restrict the use of BPA for the young, and Congress is assessing several possible remedies, such as the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act of 2008. The Kid Safe Chemicals Act of 2008 would require manufacturers of all chemicals in commerce to develop a minimum set of data on the chemicals hazards, uses and exposure potential. It would also place the burden on manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their chemicals as a condition for entering or remaining on the market. Any uses of a chemical not shown to be safe would be prohibited.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE KID SAFE CHEMICALS ACT OF 2008
1. Require Basic Data on Industrial Chemicals – Chemical companies must demonstrate the safety of their products, backed up with credible evidence. Chemicals that lack minimum data could not be legally manufactured in or imported into the United States.
2. Place the Burden on Industry to Demonstrate Safety-EPA must systematically review whether industry has met this burden of proof for all industrial chemicals within 15 years of adoption.
3. Restrict the Use of Dangerous Chemicals Found in Newborn Babies – Hazardous chemicals detected in human cord blood would be immediately targeted for restrictions on their use.
4. Use New Scientific Evidence to Protect Health – EPA must consider and is authorized to require additional testing as new science and new testing methods emerge, including for health effects at low doses or during fetal or infant development and for nano materials.
5. Establish National Program to Assess Human Exposure – The federal governments Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to expand existing analysis of pollutants in people to help identify chemicals that threaten the health of children, workers, or other vulnerable populations.
6. Expand the Public Right to Know on Toxic Chemicals – New, Internet-accessible public database on chemical hazards and uses will inform companies, communities, and consumers. EPA is to rein in excessive industry claims of confidentiality.
7. Invest in Long-Term Solutions – New funding and incentives are provided for development of safer alternatives and technical assistance in green chemistry.
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