In this era of change, not much has done so at the FDA , where officials continue to say that bisphenol A (BPA) in our food supply is safe despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. We are hopeful that once a new FDA commissioner is named, there will be some major transformations at FDA resulting in an agency that put science before politics and public health before industry profits.
In the meantime, and since I've last written about BPA, there have been at least five new scientific studies published that support previous research findings and continue to raise concern about the toxic effects of BPA and the vulnerability of infants and children to this chemical. And a story was published in the magazine Fast Company, exposing the tactics of the chemical industry to keep this toxic chemical on the market.
Previous research has associated BPA with interfering with development of the brain, behavioral changes, early puberty, breast cancer and prostate cancer. New research has also suggested that BPA may interfere with metabolism and lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes in humans.
Just yesterday, a new study was published that questions the previous assumption that BPA is rapidly broken down and eliminated from the body in 24 hours. In this study, using data collected from over 1,600 Americans, there was a drop in BPA levels after 4 hours of fasting, but then it leveled off and was never completely eliminated from the body, even after 24 hours of fasting. This suggests that either it takes the body longer to break down BPA than we previously thought and/or food is not the major source of exposure to BPA. Either way, this provocative study suggests we are more highly exposed than was previously appreciated.
Other human studies published in the past month have indicated that infants are the most highly exposed. Premature infants in neonatal intensive care units had 10 times higher levels of BPA in their bodies than adult levels and twice as high as children ages 6-11. These high levels of exposure are presumed to be from medical equipment found in hospital settings. This study agrees with another study which used computer modeling to predict that babies would have eleven times higher BPA levels. Here the difference was attributed to natural differences in metabolism and body size between infants and adults.
Additional studies in laboratory animals have demonstrated that BPA exposures in the womb are associated with abnormalities in adult female reproductive tissues and exposures shortly after birth have been associated with changes in the secretion of sex hormones from the brain and with the development of mammary (breast) cancer.
All of these studies are consistent with previous research and add to the weight of evidence that BPA is a toxic chemical that has no business being in our food.
You might wonder why our government is overlooking all this research and instead of adopting an approach that is "better safe than sorry" has chosen to assume this chemical is "innocent until proven guilty". Another recent article in Fast Company, exposes the real story and reveals that some of the same tactics that were used by the tobacco industry to cast doubt on the toxicity of cigarettes have now been adopted by the chemical industry to delay regulation of BPA. The story exposes multiple instances where the chemical industry has published reports or hired lobbying firms to advocate for the continued use of their chemical.
We expect our government agencies to be immune to these tactics and put science and public health before industry profits but this hasn't been the case at FDA.
NRDC has reviewed the science on BPA and concluded that this science is concerning and we should be limiting our exposures. Based on this, we have already asked the FDA to remove BPA from our food packaging. While we wait for their response, we've been communicating our concerns to the FDA transition team and remain cautiously optimistic that once a new FDA Commissioner is named there will be some big changes at FDA.
Stay tuned and check here for tips on ways to limit your exposure to BPA.
This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.
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