Health Problem Linked To Chemical In Plastics

A chemical used in all kinds of plastic, including baby bottles and food containers, could be linked to a prostate and breast cancer, a preliminary government report has found.

The federal National Toxicology Program said yesterday that experiments on rats found precancerous prostate tumors, urinary system problems and early puberty when the animals were fed or injected with low doses of the chemical, bisphenol-A.

The latest draft significantly increased the chemical’s risk level from a bisphenol-A statement the government released last year.

“It’s an important step to have a federal agency acknowledge that it has concerns about bisphenol-A and breast cancer and prostate cancer,” said Pete Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Sciences, a nonprofit that raises awareness of chemical risks. “It’s a scary compound.”

While such animal studies only provide “limited evidence” of bisphenol’s developmental risks, the study group’s draft report insists that the possible effects on humans “cannot be dismissed.”

The panel is made up of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.

Most Americans are exposed to trace amounts of bisphenol, which leaches out of water bottles and other items made with the chemical.

The American Chemistry Council, which represents manufacturers, said the report “affirms that there are no serious or high level concerns for adverse effects of bisphenol-A on human reproduction and development.”

The group said it supports additional research to determine whether effects of the chemical when used in animals “are of any significance to human health.”

The toxicology group’s findings echo those of researchers assembled by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), who called last August for more research on bisphenol in humans.

The Food and Drug Administration said in November there is “no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict its use.” The agency did not immediately have any comment yesterday about the new report.

But growing concern about the chemical has pushed many consumers toward glass alternatives, and triggered investigations by state and federal lawmakers.

Rep. John D. Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, yesterday called on the FDA to reconsider the safety of bisphenol, saying the toxicology report’s findings “fly in the face of the FDA’s determination.”

Dingell issued letters to seven companies that make baby formulations earlier this year, questioning whether they use bisphenol in the lining of their cans and bottles.

The companies included Hain Celestial Group, Nestle USA and Abbott Laboratories.

A spokeswoman for the International Formula Council, which represents baby food makers, said yesterday that “the overwhelming scientific evidence supports the safety” of bisphenol, adding that no governments have restricted or banned its use.

The National Toxicology Program will take public comments on its initial report through May. A final version will be issued this summer.

Earlier this month, state lawmakers in New Jersey passed a bill that would ban the sale of all products containing bisphenol. Canada’s health agency is also examining the health risks of bisphenol and is expected to issue its findings in coming days.

From Staff and Wire Reports

April 16, 2008

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