June 17, 2010
Following its 2008 declaration that the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) is a safe additive in food and beverage plastics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received criticism from consumer advocacy groups and others for neglecting scientific evidence that indicated the contrary. The agency reluctantly agreed to review its position and recently reversed its position, declaring that it now has concerns about the safety of BPA.
Several scientific studies have verified that BPA is a highly toxic endocrine disruptor that can impede proper reproductive function and lead to cardiovascular disease, liver problems, and diabetes. It is especially harmful during the early developmental stages because it hinders the proper development of organ tissues and glands and inhibits proper sexual maturity.
A 2009 Harvard University study found that people who drank from polycarbonate bottles containing BPA for just one week experienced a two-thirds increase of BPA in their urine. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the study verified that the BPA used in containers leaches very easily into food and beverages, especially when heated.
Manufacturers of plastic containers have been using BPA since the 1960s because it helps to harden plastic and make it more durable. It is also used in food can linings and other packaging materials where it leaches into food. According to many studies, nearly everyone is exposed to BPA, including unborn babies still in the womb.
Despite mounting evidence concerning its dangers, FDA officials, in conjunction with chemical industry spokesmen, have long denied that BPA is dangerous. After giving the chemical a thumb’s up in 2008, the FDA submitted its report to an independent panel of scientific advisors which lambasted the agency for failing to properly evaluate important evidence that indicated the dangers associated with BPA. Recognizing that scrutiny of its failure was only intensifying, the FDA finally conceded that BPA is dangerous and that further research is needed to verify just how dangerous it really is.
Many manufacturers have already begun to voluntarily remove BPA from their products, particularly those that produce products for babies and young children. Chicago, Suffolk County, New York, and Canada have all outlawed BPA from being used children’s products.
The FDA officially recognizes BPA as a food additive, a difficult category for which to make regulatory changes. FDA officials have expressed support for reclassifying BPA as a “food contact substance” which would allow the agency more control over how it is regulated.
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