January 15, 2010
Yonkers, N.Y.—Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, expressed disappointment with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) failure to ban the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), despite announcing today that there is cause for concern over its potential effect on children. Consumers Union believes that that there is enough scientific evidence to date to warrant a ban on BPA in food contact products now.
“FDA’s admission of concern with BPA is an encouraging change in its position and we hope it will lead to concrete protection for consumers. However, we are concerned that the new advice on reducing exposure puts the onus on consumers to protect themselves until such a ban is put in place,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, Director of Technical Policy. “The scientific evidence is clear that BPA poses serious health risks, especially to children and the developing fetus. It is time for FDA and Congress to act quickly to ban this toxin from all food and beverage containers.”
BPA—a chemical found in the linings of cans and in polycarbonate plastic, including some sports bottles, food-storage containers and baby bottles—has potential links to a wide range of health effects. The diseases and health effects to which BPA has been linked include an increased risk of diseases or disorders of the brain, reproductive and immune systems.
The FDA ruled last year trace amounts that leach out of bottles and food packaging are not dangerous. FDA officials then said they would revisit that conclusion after scientists complained it relied on a small number of industry-sponsored studies.
In 2008, the FDA said BPA was safe at the low levels used in plastic bottles and other food containers, in a draft report on the chemical. The stance differed from the National Toxicology Program, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The NTP said, also in a 2008 report, that BPA was of “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures.” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said today that the FDA now agrees with the NTP that BPA is of “some concern” for children and infants. But, she said, more needs to be known about the impact of BPA before the agency takes any steps to ban the chemical or reduce amounts.
In its December 2009 issue, Consumer Reports tested canned foods, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans and found that almost all of the 19 name-brand foods contained measurable levels of BPA. The findings are noteworthy because they indicate how widespread and, in some cases, significant, exposure to the chemical is. A recent CDC study showed that more than 90 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine.
In 2008, the Canadian government banned its use in baby bottles. Several U.S. jurisdictions have banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, including Suffolk County, New York, Chicago and Minnesota. Connecticut also banned BPA in reusable food and beverage containers, as well as infant formula and baby food cans and jars. Six of the largest manufacturers of baby bottles no longer sell BPA bottles. A number of retailers have done the same. The chemical company Sunoco has also restricted the sales of the controversial chemical in baby bottles and food containers for children under three.
Almost a decade ago, Consumers Union was one of the first to test BPA in baby bottles, and to warn consumers about its potential dangers. Today, an array of groups, including consumer, health, environmental, medical and scientific, have urged FDA to remove BPA from food and beverage containers, and at the very least, to protect the most vulnerable consumer—young children and pregnant women. For more advice on how to avoid BPA exposure, visit GreenerChoices.org.
Food Policy Media Consultant