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FDA Reverses Position on BPA, Expresses Public Health Concerns

By January 18, 2010

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After long delays and three missed deadlines, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finally expressed "some concern" about the potential effects of bisphenol A (BPA) on fetuses and young children, thereby reversing the agency's controversial 2008 ruling that BPA is "safe for all uses" and giving hope to parents and other concerned consumers that the widely used industrial chemical may eventually be regulated.

Before anyone throws a party, however, let's take a closer look at the FDA's new position and what it means.

In practical terms, all the FDA actually did by saying that it had "some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children" was to adopt the position taken nearly two years ago by the National Toxicology Program.

The agency placed no restrictions on the use of BPA, nor did it propose to regulate the chemical, even though numerous independent studies have shown BPA to have serious potential health effects. BPA is so widely used and so easily absorbed that it has been found in the umbilical cord blood of fetuses, the blood and breast milk of pregnant women and new mothers, and the urine of more than 90 percent of people who were tested.

Still, the FDA's new ruling on BPA is a positive step toward greater public safety and consumer confidence.

As part of its statement on Friday [January 15, 2010], the FDA threw its support behind additional BPA studies by both government and non-government organizations, and also announced a set of studies by its own National Center for Toxicological Research on the safety of low doses of BPA.

The FDA also pledged to study and monitor BPA more closely, to seek public comment on BPA, and to work with manufacturers on alternatives to BPA in many products. In addition, the FDA said it would shift BPA into a different regulatory framework--the Food Contact Notification Program--and encourage manufacturers to voluntarily provide food-contact information about their uses of BPA. Finally, the FDA issued a set of interim health recommendations and agency positions aimed at reducing the exposure of infants and "other populations" to BPA through the food supply.

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