BPA Chemical in Plastic Linked to Problems for Monkeys
According to a study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the Yale School of Medicine have indicated that the Bisphenol A, or BPA, chemical found in a variety of hard plastic products can alter brain function and bring about mood disorders in monkeys. The study was released one day after the U.S. government released a report expressing that the plastic bottle chemicals raise some concerns for humans.
BPA, a compound that provides an unbreakable quality to polycarbonate plastic products, was approved for commercial use in the 1950s. The chemical is used in the manufacture of several products, such as baby bottles, sports bottles, compact discs and food containers.
Various animal studies over the last 10 years have raised concerns about the potential health effects BPA could have on humans, and particularly children. According to a recent federal study, the chemical is found in the urine of about 93 percent of the population.
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The Yale study is the first time the commonly used chemical has been connected to health problems in primates. Researchers exposed the monkeys to bisphenol A levels that were considered safe for humans by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and found that the compound intervened with brain cell connections crucial for learning, memory and mood.
The findings suggest that minimum BPA exposure could extensively affect the structure and function of the brain. Csaba Leranth, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, and neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine, said, “Our goal was to more closely mimic the slow and continuous conditions under which humans would normally be exposed to BPA.”
Yesterday we reported on a final report released this week by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Although the FDA has previously issued statements supporting the safety of BPA use, the NTP report indicated that there remains considerable uncertainty about whether the plastic bottle chemical could impair human development.
The National Toxicology Program, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, is not vested with the authority to regulate BPA, but other federal agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration and the EPA, which are in charge of setting exposure limits for compounds, make use of its findings.
The FDA is holding an advisory panel meeting of independent experts on September 16, 2008 to discuss the issue further. It is unclear whether the NTP report and this new research from Yale School of Medicine may cause the FDA to take a new position on the safety of the use of the BPA chemical, especially in baby bottles and other infant products.
If a decision is reached to ban BPA, as regulators have indicated they intend to do in Canada, it would likely affect thousands of manufacturers who generate billions of dollars in profit off of the chemical. It would also likely renew interest in BPA chemical lawsuits for individuals who have suffered health risks that can be tied to the plastic bottle chemical.
George Bittner, Ph.D.September 9, 2008 at 2:40 pm
Legislators, consumers, and regulatory agencies should have well-justified concerns about the estrogenic activity (EA) exhibited by BPA and phthalates in water bottles and other plastics like baby bottles. While estrogens occur naturally in the body, many scientific studies have shown that significant health problems can occur when chemicals are ingested that mimic or block the actions of these fe[Show More]Legislators, consumers, and regulatory agencies should have well-justified concerns about the estrogenic activity (EA) exhibited by BPA and phthalates in water bottles and other plastics like baby bottles. While estrogens occur naturally in the body, many scientific studies have shown that significant health problems can occur when chemicals are ingested that mimic or block the actions of these female sex hormones; the fetus, newborn, or young child is especially vulnerable. However, BPA and phthalates are just two of several hundred chemicals that exhibit EA in plastics. These chemicals having EA leach from almost all plastics sold today, including polyethylene, polypropylene, PET, etc. That is, plastics advertised as BPA-free or phthalate-free are not EA-free; almost all these plastics still leach chemicals having EA – and often have more total EA than plastics that release BPA or phthalates. Current legislation is attempting to solve this problem by removing chemicals having EA (BPA, phthalates) one at a time. This approach, for legislators or the FDA, is not an appropriate solution for consumers because thousands of chemicals used in plastics exhibit EA, not just BPA and phthalates. This approach is a marketing-driven solution, not a health-driven solution. The appropriate health-driven solution is to manufacture safer plastics that are EA-free. This is not a pie-in-the-sky solution, as the technology already exists to produce EA-free plastics that also have the same advantageous physical properties, as do almost all existing EA-releasing plastics on the market today. In fact, some of these advanced-technology EA-free plastics are already in the marketplace. The cost of these safer EA-free plastics are just pennies more than EA-releasing plastics, when both are used to manufacture the same product in similar quantities.
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