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FDA Not Banning BPA

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As consumers, we’re still on our own to sort through risks and benefits of various food packaging and decide if we want to eat products stored in bisphenol-A (BPA) linings.  The Food and Drug Administration has decided not to ban the hormone-disrupting chemical from food packaging.  Today’s official response was a 15-page denial letter addressed to leaders of the Natural Resources Defense Council, meeting a court-imposed deadline to address public health concerns formally brought by the NRDC.

Despite study after study showing reason for health concerns about even very low levels of BPA, the FDA says there’s still not enough scientific evidence to change regulations.  The FDA itself has expressed concerns about BPA’s safety, and says it is working with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences on the matter.  FDA spokesman Douglas Karas notes, “this is not a final safety determination and the FDA continues to support research examining the safety of BPA.”

When I asked Karas when parents like me can expect a clear answer from the FDA on a such a disconcerting health matter, he responded, “We’ve been doing research on it and I don’t know that you can do a timeline or a deadline on it as good science.”  It was about 15 years ago that the scientists with the Endocrine Disruptors Group first got the world’s attention because of their discoveries.  I interviewed one of those scientists last fall — a mom who avoids BPA-lined cans and stores food in glass as often as possible in her own kitchen.

NRDC Senior Scientist Sarah Janssen issued this statement in response to the FDA.  “BPA is a toxic chemical that has no place in our food supply.  We believe FDA made the wrong call.  The agency has failed to protect our health and safety – in the face of scientific studies that continue to raise disturbing questions about the long-term effects of BPA exposures, especially in fetuses, babies and young children.  The FDA is out-of-step with scientific and medical research.  This illustrates the need for a major overhaul of how the government protects us against dangerous chemicals.”

While the federal government delays on this issue, a few states have added some protections against BPA in children’s products and individual companies have responded to consumer worries.  Yet another concern is that any chemical replacing BPA may or may not be tested for long-term safety before it goes into production.

Here’s more on the topic from NRDC staff member Gina Solomon.

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