FDA under pressure over Bisphenol A


14 April 2008

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been accused by congressmen of cherry picking research to support its decision on the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles and other products for use by children. 

Around three million tonnes of the monomer is used each year to make polycarbonate and epoxy resins but in high enough doses the chemical is known to disrupt hormone function and could be linked to cancer. 

Michigan Democrats John Dingell, who chairs the House of Representative's Energy and Commerce Committee, and Bart Stupak, who chairs that committee's investigations subcommittee, launched an inquiry into FDA's decisions about BPA in January 2008. The lawmakers then ratcheted up the tension on 9 April when they threatened to subpoena the agency for information about how it reached its verdict on BPA.   

In letter to FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, Dingell and Stupak note that the agency's position on BPA's safety is 'entirely dependent on two studies' that are both funded by a subsidiary of the American Chemistry Council, which represents plastic resins manufacturers. Moreover, one of the two studies has not been published or peer-reviewed. 

"Given that there are dozens of published, peer-reviewed studies related to BPA, your development of critical public health policy in this manner, especially as related to infants and children, seems highly questionable"
- Dingell and Stupak

'Given that there are dozens of published, peer-reviewed studies related to BPA, your development of critical public health policy in this manner, especially as related to infants and children, seems highly questionable,' the two write. They require that FDA provide detailed information on their decision by 18 April. 

The FDA says it will reply to the congressmen's letter, but not necessarily before they issue a subpoena. The agency maintains that there is no reason to ban or restrict the use of BPA in food or drink containers because human exposure levels to the chemical from these sources is too low to have any adverse effects. 

The ACC also defends the use of BPA, saying the chemical has been used safely for decades. In a statement, the industry lobby group said, 'FDA's conclusions with regard to their review of available research on BPA and baby formula are consistent with the multiple assessments performed by regulatory agencies around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority, and the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology.' 

Rebecca Trager, US correspondent for Research Day USA

 

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