Story by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro
Told you so.
Earlier this year, we reported on the risks of bisphenol-A, a chemical used in plastic water bottles, baby formula containers, and canned-food linings, and drew the conclusion that BPA is in fact dangerous. We also noted that the Food and Drug Administration ruled BPA was safe based on two studies funded by the chemical industry, raising obvious questions of conflict of interest and flawed findings. Now, in a report released today, a panel sponsored by the FDA itself has come to essentially the same conclusions.
The report concerns the FDA’s ruling in August that plastic baby bottles are safe. Much of it is coached in scientific language—not what you’d call easy reading—but this much is unmistakable: “The margins of safety defined by FDA as ‘adequate’ are, in fact, inadequate,” the panel wrote. FDA’s methodology “creates a false sense of security”.
Specifically, the panel found that the FDA’s threshold for safe exposure is 10 times the amount some studies have shown can cause problems.
The report also attacked the FDA for ignoring numerous studies showing a link between BPA and health problems such as prostrate and breast cancer, brain damage, early onset of puberty, and more. The FDA didn’t use enough samples in its testing and didn’t account for variability in BPA content, either: It relied on just 14 bottles of formula, all bought at the same time.
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The harsh findings come as somewhat of a surprise because the group of experts assembled to second-guess the FDA’s August ruling has been attacked itself for ties to the chemical industry. The chairman of the panel, Martin Philbert of the University of Michigan, heads a risk science center that received a $5 million pledge for research from a retired medical equipment businessman who’s been openly dismissive of BPA’s potential for health problems. Both Congress and the FDA are looking into the connection.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat from Connecticut, whose Congressional committee oversees the FDA budget, said, "Despite the concerns about their objectivity, [the panel] agreed with the many independent scientists that questioned FDA’s initial assessment on BPA." It shows that “FDA should restart the BPA evaluation process."
The report is being presented Friday at a meeting of the Science Board of the FDA. You can read it in its entirety, along with a host of studies and documents assembled for the meeting, here.