May 20, 2008, The New York Times – Anybody worried about the potential danger from plastic bottles and cups, especially for the very young, should take note. The Canadian government has announced plans to restrict the use of bisphenol-a, or BPA, a chemical used to make hardened plastics. The government would prohibit the sale of baby bottles made with BPA. (Those are the ones with the numeral 7 in the triangle stamp on the bottom).

Last month, the United States National Toxicology Program, which assesses the health effects of chemicals, also raised concerns about the potential “neural and behavioral” effects of BPA on all humans, but especially on fetuses, infants and young children. The program also warned against heating or microwaving food containers made with BPA, since some studies suggest that BPA may break down faster at higher temperatures.

The American Chemical Council, which represents about 85 percent of the chemical industry, insists that products made with the widely used plastic have been proved safe, including for young children. The Food and Drug Administration currently agrees. But it has set up a task force to study reports on BPA, and on its Web site, the agency notes that “concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles.”

Until the F.D.A. rules, which it should do quickly, consumers would be wise to avoid BPA for babies and young children and use those alternatives, whether glass bottles, bottles with disposable liners or BPA-free plastic bottles. Playtex has already announced that it will stop using BPA in baby items. Wal-Mart has promised to remove all bottles made with BPA from stores in this country by early next year. Toys “R” Us has plans to phase out any baby products containing BPA by the end of 2008.

Congress is also getting involved. Senator Charles Schumer of New York and several of his fellow Democrats have proposed a ban on BPA in all children’s products, and Representative John Dingell of Michigan is investigating whether the industry-backed studies that are used as the basis of the F.D.A.’s advice to consumers are really sufficient to warrant an all-clear for BPA.

Congress should push for a ban of BPA in such items as baby bottles or cups. But bisphenol-a is also used to make other products, like bicycle helmets and car safety seats. Before imposing a wider ban, Congress should push government scientists to complete their assessments of the hazards posed by BPA and determine whether there are safer alternatives for these essential products.

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May 23, 2008

There may be a potentially dangerous chemical leaching into our food from the containers that we use every day. BILL MOYERS JOURNAL and EXPOSÉ: AMERICA’S INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS examine why, even though studies show that the chemical Bisphenol A can cause cancer and other health problems in lab animals, the manufacturers, their lobbyists, and U.S. regulators say it’s safe.

In a watchdog series for the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, a trio of reporters focused on Bisphenol A, a chemical contained in many plastics that is also found in 93% of human beings. The problem at issue? Congress ordered the federal government in 1996 to begin testing and regulating certain chemicals suspected of causing cancer and a host of developmental problems. Eleven years later, not a single compound has been put to that test.

You can read the full series “Chemical Fallout” online, plus ongoing coverage of the fate of Bisphenol A. On May 15, 2008, the SENTINEL reported on some new Congressional hearings:

Members of a Senate consumer affairs subcommittee faulted federal agencies for reacting too slowly to concerns that children are exposed to bisphenol A through leaching from common items such as water bottles, baby bottles and the linings of food and baby-formula cans.

On May 20, 2008 a reform bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House. “The “Kid Safe Chemicals Act” is modeled on European legislation enacted last year. More study and more debate is anticipated.

Ask the Reporters

The reporting team who broke the story for the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL “Chemical Fallout,” Meg Kissinger, Suzanne Rust and Cary Spivak, were awarded the 2007 Sigma Delta Chi award and the Society of American Business Writers and Editors award for the series. All three reporters will be taking viewer questions about the story and their work as investigative science reporters on The Moyers Blog. Simply add your question and they’ll be answering them in the near future.

Meg Kissinger
Meg Kissinger is the Watchdog reporter for healthcare investigations. Kissinger was a finalist for last year’s Selden Ring and Investigative Reporter and Editor awards for her reports on the filthy and dangerous housing conditions in Milwaukee County for people with mental illness. That series won the Mental Health America Award for best news reporting. In her 25 years in the newsroom, Kissinger has written about abuses in the nursing home industry, the scam of the door-to-door magazine sales industry and the travails of an oncologist who unwittingly discovered his own end-stage cancer. Kissinger has received awards from the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Susanne Rust
Susanne Rust is a science reporter at the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. In her five years at the paper she has trekked through the hills of Rwanda to cover stories on civil engineering and AIDS; hacked through the dense foliage of a Ugandan rain forest in search of mountain gorillas; poked around Scotland’s Roslin Institute looking for clones; and written about eco-friendly agriculture in Costa Rica. Rust has also been recognized for her reporting on stem cells, including winning a First Place Inland Press Association award for explanatory writing. Before joining the JOURNAL SENTINEL, she pursued a doctorate in biological anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she studied primate communication, evolution and ecology.

Cary Spivak
Cary Spivak is the JOURNAL SENTINEL’s investigative reporter focusing on business. Before joining the Watchdog Team as an investigative reporter focusing on business, Spivak was the co-author of the Spivak & Bice column. Prior to launching the column in 1998 with Daniel Bice, Spivak worked on the business desk at the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL as an investigative reporter specializing in casino gaming, the legal industry and financial fraud. During his 30-year career, he has worked on a variety of investigations involving business, politics and law enforcement. Subjects he has probed include a now-disbarred bankruptcy lawyer who pocketed thousands of dollars in fees without doing any work for his destitute clients; illegal property flipping schemes and securities fraud.

Published on May 23, 2008.

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 16, 2008;

A federal health agency acknowledged for the first time yesterday concerns that a chemical found in thousands of everyday products such as baby bottles and compact discs may cause cancer and other serious disorders.

The draft report by the National Toxicology Program signaled a turning point in the government’s position on bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical so ubiquitous in the United States that it has been detected in the urine of 93 percent of the population over 6 years of age.

Last year, another expert panel using outside scientists minimized the health risks of BPA, but its findings were widely assailed after a congressional investigation found that a firm hired to perform scientific analysis was also working for the chemical industry.

Used in the production of plastic since the 1950s, BPA may be linked in laboratory animals to breast cancer, prostate cancer, early puberty in females and behavioral changes, according to the study released yesterday. It called for more research into the chemical’s health effects.

Although the National Toxicology Program, an office of the National Institutes of Health, has no power to regulate BPA, its findings are used by other federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, which set safe exposure limits for chemicals.

“What we’ve got is a warning, a signal, of some concerns,” said Mike Shelby, director of the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, who oversaw the report. “We could not dismiss the possibility that similar or related effects might occur in humans.”

Public health advocates said the report should spur the government to ban BPA, at least in baby products. Formula-fed infants are most vulnerable to the chemical, since it is found in baby bottles as well as in the linings of cans of powdered and liquid formula. “They get a double exposure,” said Anila Jacob, a senior scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.

But Steven G. Hentges, executive director of the polycarbonate/BPA global group at the American Chemistry Council, said the new report does not mean BPA is unsafe.

“It found no serious or high-level concerns for human health,” he said. “More research is always considered valuable.”

The toxicology panel used a five-level rating system, ranging from serious concern to negligible concern. It labeled the possible cancer risk of BPA as “some concern,” in the middle of the scale. There was not enough scientific evidence to rank it as a “concern” or a “serious concern,” Shelby said.

Asked in an interview whether exposure to BPA can be eliminated, Shelby paused. “It’s everywhere,” he said. “It’s not clear that we know what all the sources of BPA exposure are. The vast majority of exposure is through food and drink — cans and bottles. But there could be trace amounts in water, dust. Your cellphone is probably made out of it.”

Since BPA is most readily absorbed through food and drink containers, health advocates have been particularly focused on how the Food and Drug Administration is regulating the chemical. An FDA spokesman declined to comment on the new report, saying the agency has not had a chance to review it.

The FDA has been under fire from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has been investigating the influence of the chemical industry on the agency’s regulation of BPA in plastic liners in metal cans of baby formula.

Last month, in response to questions from lawmakers, the FDA said it had disregarded hundreds of government and academic studies about the cancer risks of BPA and used just two studies funded by the chemical industry to determine that the chemical is safe.

Yesterday’s report should spur the FDA to reconsider its decisions regarding BPA, said Reps. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), the Energy and Commerce chairman, and Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the panel’s oversight and investigations subcommittee.

“These assessments fly in the face of the FDA’s determination that BPA is safe,” Dingell said through a spokesman. “I hope the FDA is willing to reconsider their position on BPA for the safety of our infants and children.”

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said, referring to the National Toxicology Program: “It appears that NTP has really listened to the concerns of scientists in this field. This is an important public health issue, and we can’t afford to get it wrong.”

Concern about BPA has been growing for years, and the chemistry council’s Web site has pages devoted to responding to “scare stories” about the chemical. “The weight of scientific evidence clearly supports the safety of BPA and provides strong reassurance that there is no basis for human health concerns from exposure to BPA,” one page says.

A number of states, including California and New Jersey, are considering bans on BPA. Others, such as Maine, may require manufacturers to place warning labels on products containing it.

The worries have been a boon for a two-year-old company, Born Free, that manufactures BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups. The company can’t turn out bottles fast enough, and demand intensifies with new scientific studies.

“Every time there is a publication, after a few days, we’re out of stock,” said Gil Lemel, the company’s chief executive. “Every time we think we are better prepared, it never is enough. We make 80,000 bottles a day, and we have no inventory.”

Overview

During the week of April 14, 2008, upon the request of the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, FDA formed an agency-wide BPA (Bisphenol A) task force to facilitate cross-agency review of current research and new information on BPA for all FDA regulated products. As a result of this review, the task force will make recommendations to the Commissioner regarding next steps.

As part of the evaluation, the FDA Task Force is reviewing the concerns presented in the National Toxicology Program (NTP) Draft Brief published on April 14, 2008 by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. We also are reviewing the concerns presented in the Canadian draft risk assessment released in April 2008 and are coordinating closely with Health Canada and the Canadian Ministry of the Environment and Minister of Health.
FDA has been reviewing the emerging literature on BPA on a continuous basis. For example, FDA has recently completed a review of the available biological fate data and two recently completed rodent multigeneration reproductive studies; these studies did not indicate a safety concern for BPA at current exposure levels. In addition, FDA is conducting a review of the data on neural and behavioral effects of BPA exposure.

Based on our ongoing review, we believe there is a large body of evidence that indicates that FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects. However, we will continue to consider new research and information as they become available.

This position is consistent with two risk assessments for BPA conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food and the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. Each of these documents considered the question of a possible low-dose effect and concluded that no current health risk exists for BPA at the current exposure level.

Message for Consumers

At this time, FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles.

U.S. Study Released This Month Found ‘Bisphenol-A’ May Pose Dangers to Human Development and Reproduction
Wal-Mart and Toys’R’Us Announced They are Pulling All Products Containing the Chemical from Their Shelves
Senators Call for Comprehensive CDC Investigation into Health Hazards of Bisphenol-A

Washington, DC– U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), along with Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Dick Durbin (D-IL), John Kerry (D-MA), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), today announced that they have introduced legislation banning a potentially hazardous chemical, known as bisphenol-A (BPA), in all children’s products. The legislation will also mandate that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct a comprehensive study of the health effects of BPA in children and adults. Earlier this month a U.S. government study revealed that bisphenol-A, a chemical used to make plastics clear and shatter-resistant, could pose major health risks. Canada has identified the chemical, which is present in water bottles and infant formula bottles, as one that could affect reproduction, and neural development during early life exposure. Major U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys’R’Us are already pulling baby bottles containing bisphenol-A from their shelves, and the popular bottle-maker Nalgene said it will discontinue production of its line of bottles that rely on the substance and recall BPA-affected products already in stores.

“When a fire starts to burn, you don’t wait for it to engulf the house before you sound the alarm. There have been enough warning signs about the dangers of this chemical that we cannot sit idly by and continue to allow vulnerable children and infants to be exposed,” Senator Schumer said. “Many manufacturers and retailers are already taking the appropriate steps to get these products off the shelves, and now we want to make sure that everyone takes the same responsible steps.”

“Evidence is mounting that exposure to this chemical is dangerous for children as they grow and develop.” Senator Feinstein said. “We cannot let the health of our children hang in the balance while we wait for more studies, which could take several years. The time has come to take action to keep our kids safe. So I believe that we should ban this chemical in all children’s products.”

“The discovery of this potentially toxic chemical in plastic baby bottles is the latest in a series of troubling reports for parents concerned about their children’s health and safety. Whether it is keeping lead out of toys or BPA in plastic, we need to do all we can to protect our children and ensure public safety. This legislation takes an important step toward providing worried parents with the assurance they deserve that products marketed for use by children are safe,” Senator Clinton said.

“American consumers are on a heightened state of alert for dangerous products after last year’s experience,” Senator Durbin said. “Recent scientific findings that harmful toxins can leach from plastic bottles, especially those used by children, should alarm all of us. Congress must do more. Passing a ban on these chemicals in children’s products is critical to protecting the most vulnerable.”

“As the evidence mounts about BPA’s health risks, the first thing we should do is take this chemical out of children’s products,” Senator Kerry said. “Parents should be able to give their kids a drink without wondering whether the baby bottle or sippee cup will make their child sick.”

Senator Menendez said, “If there’s even a small concern that a product may lead to cancer or other health disorders, you can bet parents are going to keep their babies away from it. Right now, there’s more than a just a small concern – there’s mounting evidence about the dangers of everyday plastics containing BPA, and it seems best to keep them away from our children.”

The federal government released a draft report last week that found that BPA is potentially dangerous to human development and reproduction. The finding by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, calls into question previous analyses of the FDA that found minimal concern related to BPA. Since the release of the NTP report, the FDA has convened a Task Force to reexamine the research on this issue.

BPA is used to make plastics clear and shatter-resistant, and is commonly found in water bottles, food containers, baby bottles, some dental fillings and the coatings for the inside of cans containing foods. While BPA has earned approval by the FDA for what are called “food contact” consumer products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research has shown that 95% of tested Americans have BPA levels at or above those found to cause abnormalities in animals. Bisphenol-A has been known to mimic the hormone estrogen and recent studies have raised concerns about the hormonal impact the chemical can have on the prostate gland, mammary gland, and reproductive development of fetuses, infants, and children.

Since 1997, over 100 published studies have documented adverse effects in animals caused by exposure to low levels of BPA. Lab animals exposed to BPA have been found to be more likely to have miscarriages, prostate problems and cancers. Studies also link BPA to obesity, infertility and behavioral changes in test animals. A government panel that reviewed the safety of BPA was found to rely on studies that found no harm that were largely paid for by the chemical industry.

Hundreds of BPA products have been banned in countries around the world but are available to U.S. consumers without any warnings. In the past two years, legislators in several states have introduced bills that would restrict local sale of infants’ and children’s products containing BPA, including California.

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Updated Thu. Feb. 7 2008 1:01 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

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Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence, speaking on Canada AM on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008.

A new report is warning about the dangers of popular plastic baby bottle brands sold in Canada, noting that when heated, the bottles can release potentially harmful chemicals.

The study, commissioned by the Canadian group Environmental Defence, found that the bottles ooze bisphenol A (BPA) into the beverage inside in levels that surprised even the researchers.

Researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia were asked to test nine polycarbonate bottles from three manufacturers — Playtex, Avent and Gerber. The bottles were filled with water and heated in an oven at 80 degress Celsius, to simulate how the plastic would react to dozens of washings.

The laboratory tests detected 5-8 nanograms per milliliter (parts per billion) of bisphenol A leached out of all the bottles when they were heated — a level that Environmental Defence calls “very significant.”

All the Playtex products leaked BPA, regardless of whether they were heated or not. All three of the Gerber bottles and one of the Avent bottles had no detectible levels of BPA in fluids stored at room temperature.

Researcher Julia Taylor, a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, says the results disturbed her.

“They were a little scary. You don’t like to think that that amount of chemical would leech out into milk contained in a bottle, but clearly that’s a potential problem,” she told CTV News.

Taylor notes that the study represented how many parents typically use the bottles, heating them to sterilize them and then adding heated liquids, such as breast milk, formula or cow’s milk.

“That tells us that with repeated use and repeated heating and increased damage to the bottles that would come through washing, we would see increased amount of bisphenol leaching out as the bottles age,” she says.

Industry calls study ‘scare tactics’

The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, the industry group representing the bottle manufacturers says the levels detected in the study are still considered “safe,” and says it “stands by the scientific research indicating that plastic baby bottles are safe and reassures consumers not to fall victim to scare tactics.”

“There is irrefutable data available on the safety of Bisphenol-A,” the group said in a statement. “In spite of this strong scientific support, misinformation about polycarbonate baby bottles continues to circulate and as a result is needlessly scaring parents and caregivers away from a trusted and safe product.”

Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence, disagrees, saying that recent research suggests that even lower levels of BPA exposure can alter cell function.

“What the results show is that Canadian babies are being contaminated by the very bottles that are supposed to be giving them life and nutrition,” he says.

Environmental Defence says while the testing focused on nine brands, they believe the results can be considered indicative of almost all polycarbonate plastic baby bottles sold in North America.

CTV News asked for comment on the study from each of the three manufacturers. Gerber Canada and Avent have not yet provided responses; Playtex referred us to the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association statement.

Bisphenol A has been the focus of much scrutiny in recent years, with worries that the chemical mimics estrogen. There are fears it can cause earlier onset of puberty in girls, declining sperm counts, and raise the risk of breast and prostate cancer.

But most of the scientific evidence demonstrating the effects of BPA have been conducted on laboratory animals such as mice, so there is little clinical evidence of the chemical’s effect on humans.

While BPA is not bioaccumulative (meaning it doesn’t persist in the environment or build up in fat stores), the European Commission recently classified the chemical for reproductive toxicity.

Health Canada conducting ‘high priority’ evaluation

For its part, Health Canada says it’s currently conducting a “high priority” evaluation of the safety of bisphenol A, with a report due this May.

In a statement released this week to CTV News, it noted: “Health Canada is conducting several different studies on the leaching rate of bisphenol A. One of these studies does look at bottles first filled with boiling water. These results will be considered in the risk assessment as well as other potential consumer use scenarios.

“Health Canada is aware that bisphenol A (BPA) migration from polycarbonate bottles is temperature dependent and in its assessment of BPA is reviewing the results of other Canadian and international studies.”

Last week, a report in the journal Toxicology Letters found that polycarbonate plastic drinking bottles release BPA 55 times more rapidly and in higher amounts than when they were filled with room temperature water.

When the bottles were filled with cool water, the rate of BPA release ranged from 0.2 to 0.8 nanograms per hour. After the bottles were exposed to boiling water, rates increased to 8 to 32 nanograms per hour.

Smith says precautionary action should be taken now.

“The federal and provincial governments should immediately ban this chemical from food and beverage containers,” he says. “And if any parents have these bottles at home, they should get rid of them immediately.”

Environmental Defence is also encouraging retailers to stop selling products that contain BPA. Both Mountain Equipment Co-op and Lululemon recently chose to take polycarbonate plactic drinking bottles off their shelves.

Worried parents can switch back to traditional glass bottles, though the bottles do carry the risk of breakage. There is also a new generation of BPA-free plastic bottles now being sold in North America and Europe, mostly in health food stores and specialty baby stores.

Julie Daniluk of the Toronto health food store The Big Carrot says the line of BPA-free products they stock has sold well for years, but she is now expecting a spike in sales with the release of this new report.

“We plan on trying to do a massive order of to accommodate people the second the research gets out,” she told CTV earlier this week. “We will have a hard time keeping it in stock.”

Environmental Defence offers these tips to parents who continue to use polycarbonate bottles:

* do not use harsh detergents or put bottles in the dishwasher. These factors help to degrade the plastic and break down the bonds to release bisphenol A.
* Instead, clean polycarbonate bottles with warm, soapy water and a sponge.
* Avoid heating polycarbonate containers in the microwave; use glass or ceramic containers instead.
* Avoid using infant formula in cans lined with a white, epoxy liner, which is also thought to contain bisphenol A.