This past Friday, March 30th, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it will continue to allow the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in food and beverage containers. The decision was in response to a court ruling that the agency had to answer the Natural Resource Defense Council’s 2008 petition request for a ban on BPA by March 31.
THE INITIAL CONTROVERSY
The Natural Resource Defense Council’s concern was that the chemical bisphenol-A, which is found in plastic food packaging, coated metal cans, cash register receipts, dental sealants, toilet paper, and other products, is acting as a disruptor and mixing up hormonal signals resulting in such adverse effects as diabetes, asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, heart disease, and autism. “Because of the widespread use of the chemical in consumer products, [potentially] nine out of 10 Americans carry BPA residues in their bodies .”(1) This is a particular concern since young children and fetuses are the most vulnerable among us. Even more attention is being brought to the health of impoverished children who rely more so who on packaged foods than children in well-to-do families. The concern has grown so much so that nations like France have to gone as far as banning its use entirely. As a result, the NDRC has pushed and is still pushing to follow suit. (1)
Naturally, the chemical industry rebutted their claim holding fast to the notion that BPA is safe. Steven G. Hentges of the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group for the plastics industry, spoke out,
“BPA is one of the most thoroughly tested chemicals used today and has a safety track record in food contact of over 40 years.” He added, “We have and will continue to rely on the experts at FDA to evaluate the safety of BPA, and respond on the basis of all the available scientific data. “(1)
The FDA’s finial decision was to deny their citizen petition “in its entirety” based on the criteria that they had “carefully reviewed [the]… citizen petition and [had] determined that it failed to provide sufficient data and information to persuade the FDA to initiate rulemaking.” (2)
The chemical industry rejoiced at the announcement. The “FDA’s decision today, which has taken into consideration the best available science, again confirms that BPA is safe for use in food-contact materials, as it has been approved and used safely for four decades,”said Steven G. Hentges.(2)
However, an onslaught of criticism rained down targeting the data and experts. The majority bringing scepticism to the data provide by the FDA study and its complete dismissal.
“We believe FDA made the wrong call,” Sarah Janssen, senior scientist in the public health program at the NRDC, said in a statement. “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.” (2)
Frederick Vom Saal, an expert on BPA at the University of Missouri-Columbia, said he was not surprised, given the FDA’s record on the issue.
“The studies referenced by the FDA in support of its decision included research funded by industry and by the FDA. The agency’s research has been widely criticized. ‘This is bogus,’ Vom Saal said. “It’s absolutely ludicrous.'” (2)
“‘You’ve got an agency that is being told by hundreds of scientists with hundreds and hundreds of scientific publications that this is dangerous,’ Vom Saal told The Huffington Post. “But they essentially ignore all independent academic science.”(2)
“‘They picked these studies as the gold standard, suggesting people have nothing to worry about, instead of using the 20-plus studies from all over the world that have looked at humans and have all reported measurable levels of BPA in human blood,’ said Vandenberg. “They have rejected the majority of the data that is available in favor of two highly flawed studies.'”(2)
“Laura Vandenberg, a postdoctoral fellow in biology at Tufts University, called the FDA studies ‘illogical.’ In one of the studies that found no BPA in human blood after exposure to canned foods, researchers never actually measured the amount of BPA in the participants’ diet, she noted. Further, the detection limit for that study was four times higher than in previous studies. As a result, it may have missed levels of BPA that could pose health hazards.” (2)
While the decision has been made by the FDA it seems one thing is for certain the those proponents of the ban are not
(1) Peeples, Lynne. “FDA Close To BPA Decision Crucial For Health Of Poor Children.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/29/bpa-fda-decision-poverty-children-health_n_1389799.html?ref=food>.
(2) Peeples, Lynne. “FDA ‘Wrong’ Not To Ban BPA, Health Advocates Say.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 02 Apr. 2012. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/30/fda-bpa-nrdc-petition-_n_1392582.html?1333152874>.