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US scientific panel refuses to list bisphenol A as hazardous

By Rory Harrington, 16-Jul-2009

Related topics: Public Concerns

The ongoing battle over bisphenol A (BPA) took another twist yesterday when a scientific regulatory board in California rejected calls to put the packing chemical on a list of harmful substances.

The panel of seven physicians on the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee voted unanimously against placing BPA on Proposition 65 - a list of chemicals believed to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. The list, first published in 1987, currently numbers 775 substances.

 

No clear evidence

 

While the board members voiced concerns over the growing body of scientific research linking BPA to fetal health abnormalities in animals, they declared none of the evaluated studies offered clear evidence the chemical would damage human health.

 

BPA is widely used to harden plastic food containers such as baby bottles or used in the lining of metal cans.

 

Board member Dr Carl Keen said the panel’s finding was not the final ruling on BPA for the state and suggested that it could be reviewed if more rigorous evidence was available in future. He explained that the group had previously rejected calls to list secondhand smoke because at the time it thought the science was unclear. However, a study released weeks later provided the committee with the solid evidence it felt was required to list secondhand smoke under Proposition 65.

 

Regulatory consensus

 

The move has been welcomed by Steven G. Hentges of the American Chemistry Council who said he was “pleased that a panel of independent scientific experts convened by the State of California concluded today that bisphenol A is not a reproductive or developmental toxicant”.

 

“The Proposition 65 conclusion today that bisphenol A is not a reproductive or developmental toxicant is consistent with the consensus view of regulatory bodies around the world on the safety of bisphenol A,” added Dr Hentges. “From the US and Canada, to Europe, Japan and Australia-New Zealand, at least eleven national regulatory bodies have recently reviewed the science and concluded that bisphenol A is safe for use in consumer products.”

 

However, last month’s decision by the California Senate to ban BPA in baby bottles, toddler sippy cups and food containers means the issue is still very much a live one in the state - although the measure is expected to face fierce opposition when it goes before the Assembly later in the year. If approved, California would become the third state after Minnesota and Connecticut, to ban the chemical. The city authorities in Chicago have already banned BPA in baby bottles, with Wisconsin also considering the same. Last year, Canada became the first country to outlaw its use in infant food and drink containers.