For a long time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been very slow in acting on emerging chemical concerns. As many GoodGuide users have heard, Bisphenol-A is increasingly associated with a range of human health impacts, particularly on child development. Just last week, a new US study concluded that BPA exposure at even very low levels could exacerbate adult heart disease. In response to consumer demands, many plastic bottle manufacturers are voluntarily eliminating BPA from their products.
Yet, under President Bush, the agency insisted in an assessment in 2008 that BPA was safe. Scientists charged that the FDA had selectively used research and used criteria that favored industry-funded studies. Last year, facing much public criticism, FDA promised to review the latest scientific evidence. The agency repeatedly delayed the report’s release for months. Finally, on January 15, FDA officials said that they had “some concern” about BPA’s safety.
Despite the growing evidence of BPA’s toxicity, the FDA says that it currently lacks the power to regulate the chemical. This is in part because BPA is “generally recognized as safe” for use in food, a ruling that was made over 40 years ago and that cannot be easily challenged.
A leading environmental health expert, Peterson Myers says,
“Most scientists actively involved in BPA research would observe that this is a baby step in the right direction: good, but insufficient.”
Myers thinks that the BPA decision may mean that the FDA is overhauling its approach to evaluating chemical risks. Still, the FDA has not yet even looked at the very latest data, with new studies appearing weekly. Congress needs to empower the agency to review its antiquated “generally recognized as safe” list.
Until the FDA acts, you can take action to reduce your BPA exposure by using BPA-free plastic bottles, and avoiding food packed in epoxy-lined cans.
This post was written by Professor Alastair Iles is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Iles studies science, technology, and environment, with a focus on how technologies – ranging from chemistry, energy systems, environmental health monitoring, to information technology – affect society and the environment. He received his PhD in Environmental Law and Policy from Harvard University, and previously studied Law at the University of Melbourne, Australia.