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Sarah Janssen’s Blog

FDA continues to favor BPA industry as NRDC awaits 3 year overdue response.

Sarah Janssen

Posted February 17, 2012 in Health and the Environment, U.S. Law and Policy

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The FDA kicked off a 60-day comment period today on the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) request to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. This is a step in the right direction but it isn't nearly enough. ACC’s request wouldn’t even outlaw BPA in all children’s feeding products. Even if FDA grants the request, BPA will continue to be permitted in infant formula and children’s foods.

FDA continues to favor industry’s interests over public health. The ACC represents BPA manufacturers and users. They have a vested interest in keeping BPA on the market and they already lost the baby bottle market years ago. The ACC has wasted millions of dollars trying to block any regulation of BPA, including Californian’s recent ban on the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.  The ACC even had a secret meeting where BPA producers and users concluded the best way to improve BPA’s image was to find a pregnant young mother who could be their spokesperson

In an about face after all that money and time spent lobbying against BPA regulation,  ACC asked FDA for this ban in October. The industry group acknowledged that baby bottles and sippy cups no longer contain BPA and they are tired of the state-by-state regulation.

FDA seems poised to grant ACC’s request after the 60 day comment period.

More than three years ago, NRDC filed a similar request to the FDA asking it to revoke approval of BPA in all food contact applications, including baby bottles and sippy cups.  FDA never responded to our request and has never asked the public to comment on our petition. Instead the agency has stone-walled us and delayed finalizing any safety evaluations of BPA. Because we waited long enough, NRDC sued the Agency to get a response and the court has set a mandatory deadline of March 31st for FDA to respond to our request.

FDA’s response to NRDC will come 41 months after our petition was filed and 6 months after we sued in court. The ACC had to wait only 4 months for FDA to seek public comments on its request.

NRDC has asked FDA to ban all uses of BPA as a food additive. This includes not only baby bottles and sippy cups but also infant formula, canned beverages and canned foods, which are the biggest source of BPA exposure for most people. We know that simple changes in diet can have dramatic effects on a person’s BPA level. And some canned food manufacturers are already moving away from using BPA in their cans.

When we filed our petition in 2008, there was already a lot of scientific evidence to indicate that BPA was harmful to human health.  Over the past 4 years, even more research indicates that BPA is harmful. BPA is a hormone disrupting chemical which mimics estrogen and many scientific studies have linked it to reproductive harm, cancer, and abnormal brain development.

Eleven U.S. states, the European Union, Canada and even China have banned the use of BPA in children’s feeding products and BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups dominate the market.

Industry trade groups like the ACC and the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, inc. (NAMPA) which also represents BPA manufacturers and users, have asserted that FDA’s court mandated response to the NRDC petition is a “non-event” and will not address BPA’s safety.

To clarify, NRDC’s petition asking FDA to ban BPA is based on overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrating BPA is harmful to health. Therefore, FDA will have to review and comment on the safety of BPA to be able to respond to our petition.

Of note, FDA has twice drafted safety evaluations of BPA, first in 2008 and then again in 2010. Neither was finalized because FDA’s scientific advisors did not agree with their conclusions and gave strong criticisms of the reviews. Instead of finalizing their own safety assessment, FDA announced it would adopt another inter-governmental agency’s report on BPA toxicity and would be conducting its own research in the meantime. That report, which had been published two years before FDA finally accepted it in 2010, found “some concern” for the impacts of early life exposure of BPA on development of the brain and for contributing to the onset of prostate cancer later in life. And FDA announced it was “taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply.”

We need the FDA to step up and remove BPA entirely from the food supply, not just in baby bottles and sippy cups. Its job is to protect the public’s health, not corporate interests. FDA should not wait for a green light from industry before deciding to regulate a chemical. Instead, it should be more responsive to public demands, transparent in its process, and let science, not corporate interests, lead its decisions.

Check out our new website: www.nrdc.org/fixfda and tell the FDA you expect them to do better! 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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