Sunday, April 17, 2005

Scientists Call on EPA to Reassess Health Risk of Widespread Chemical Bisphenol-A

I'm republishing an article from BushGreenWatch that I received yesterday.

Controversy over the human health impacts of low doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals escalated to a new level yesterday with publication of an analysis in Environmental Health Perspectives. Drs. Fred vom Saal and George Lucier called on the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a new risk assessment of the ubiquitous chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA).

The new report, co-authored by Dr. vom Saal, a neurobiologist at the University of Missouri, and Claude Hughes, a biologist at East Carolina University, evaluated 115 scientific studies of the health impacts of BPA, a chemical used in most plastic containers, food and beverage cans, dental sealants, plastic baby toys and bottles, and other consumer products.

BPA leaches from these containers and into the food and drink they contain... Water used in bathing and drinking is another source of exposure. Large quantities of BPA leach into the soil under landfills, and hence into the water supply.

The authors found that 94 of the studies showed harmful effects from BPA in laboratory animals. They further found that of the 21 studies finding no health effects, 11 were funded by industry.

The new study contrasts with a study completed in 2002 (but released in 2004) by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, which concluded that the "evidence for low-dose effects is very weak." [1] The Center's study was funded by the American Plastics Council.

The debate over BPA has become so intense that it has reached the California state legislature, which is considering a ban on its use in all products for children age three and under.

BPA is so widespread that it has been found in almost every American, and, for that matter, most people in developed countries around the globe. The critical health issue, said vom Saal, is that "the level in humans is consistent with the level in animal studies" that find BPA causing harm. Dr. Lucier, former director of the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, added that "findings in rats and mice were extremely predictive" for determining health effects in humans.

Studies have found that BPA mimics the female sex hormone estrogen, and can interfere with such body processes as reproductive and brain functions. Babies and infants are especially at risk since they are irreversibly damaged by BPA. According to vom Saal, impacts can range from hyperactivity to increased aggressiveness, learning disabilities, and altered sex behavior as adults. BPA also decreases the male sex hormone testosterone. BPA, says vom Saal, is "an extremely potent sex hormone-like drug."

Pointing out that regulatory responsbility for BPA is the purview of many federal agencies--EPA, the Food and Drug Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, among others--Drs. Lucier and vom Saal called for a new risk assessment coordinated among all the involved agencies.

NOTE: Extensive background materials on the BPA issue are available at
SOURCES: Harvard Center for Risk Analysis

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