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Food & Health : Cooking & Packing Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Exposure to plastic chemical BPA may affect behaviors
By Jimmy Downs
Nov 2, 2008 - 8:19:41 AM

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Sunday November 2, 2008 ( -- A new study released in October suggests that maternal exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) could eliminate or decrease the sex difference in certain behavioral responses. The study adds to a growing evidence to suggest that exposure to BPA affects behaviors or the brain among others.


Those who have paid close attention to the safety of BPA may have noticed that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) have different views on the safety of the plastic chemical.


The NTP says in its comprehensive review that "The NTP has some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A."  


The FDA claimed in August however that bisphenol A poses no risk based on evidence currently available and suggested more research is needed to prove or disprove the notion that BPA is toxic.


A FDA subcommittee of Science Board said Wednesday that the agency's review on the chemical widely used in baby bottles and other plastic containers for food and beverages was inadequate or flawed.


On Friday the FDA Science Board convened to review the subcommittee’s report and concluded that the agency was wrong when it said in August that BPA poses no health risks at current exposure levels.


In response to the panel's conclusion, Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA commissioner, was cited by theDow Jonesnews service as saying "Let me be clear: There's no shame for having" your hypothesis disproved.


The problem with the FDA opinion released in August is that the agency opted not to consider the studies that found harmful health effects of BPA.   The agency's review was largely based a few industry-sponsored studies that found no risk associated with the exposure to the chemical.


The chemical industry defended the FDA's opinion.


Steven G. Hentges, of the American Chemistry Council's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, was quoted as saying at Friday's hearing that the FDA's August draft assessment is "consistent with the conclusions of other scientific and government bodies worldwide, such as the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada, the European Union, and NSF International, all of which completed or updated their assessments this year. We rely on their conclusions, which are that polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins are safe for use in food contact applications."


What he did not mention is that Canada has decided to ban plastic baby bottles containing BPA and several U.S. states are considering legislation to limit use of BPA in food packaging.   FDA had its own explanation about the Canadian ban in a statement released on Wednesday.


The FDA said that Canadian regulators acted "out of an abundance of caution" and "Health Canada's assessment of bisphenol A on newborns and infants up to 18 months of age concludes that exposure levels are below the levels that could cause health effects."


Regardless of how the government says about the safety of BPA, evidence has been building up to indicate that BPA is harmful.


Just in October this year, an Italian study published in the Environmental Research showed that maternal exposure to BPA decreased or eliminated the sex difference in certain behavioral responses.


The study authors Palanza P. and colleagues from the University of Parma also found "exposure of female mice to BPA in both adulthood or during fetal life altered subsequent maternal behavior."


In response to the conclusion of the FDA Science Board that the FDA’s opinion on the BPA safety is flawed, Norris Alderson, associate commissioner for science at the FDA was cited as telling DowJones that the agency may start its own research early in 2009 to determine the toxicity of BPA on babies less than 1 month old.  


It is unknown when such studies could be completed and it remains also unknown how the FDA would respond to the growing evidence to suggest that BPA poses a risk to young children.


Those who are concerned about the effect of BPA may consider eliminating or limiting their use of plastic water bottles and canned foods, a health observer suggested.   This estrogenic chemical is widely used in production of polycarbonate plastic, the nice and transparent type used to bottle water and epoxy resins lining food and beverage cans and in dental sealants, according to the NTP.


BPA has already been linked to increased risk of diseases or disorders in the brain, reproductive system and immune systems.   A number of major diseases like heart disease and diabetes have been associated with BPA exposure.


For more information on BPA, read

Bisphenol A Overview

The NTP-CERHR Monograph on Bisphenol A

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