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Plastic Chemical Safety Weighed

Expert Panel Notes No Major Health Concerns About Plastic Chemical Bisphenol A
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 8, 2007 -- An expert panel today noted no major health risks in their review of data on a plastic chemical called bisphenol A.

Bisphenol A, or BPA, is found in polycarbonate plastic, which is used in various products including food and drink containers, as well as resins that line metal food cans.

The expert panel was convened by the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) of the National Toxicology Program.

The 12-member panel included doctors and researchers from universities, the federal government, the American Cancer Society, and the drug companies Pfizer and Schering-Plough.

Their task was to review reams of research on bisphenol A's safety, based on lab tests on animals and studies of human exposure to bisphenol A.

The panel notes "some" concern that exposure to bisphenol A causes neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children.

The panel notes "minimal" concern that exposure to bisphenol A in fetuses, infants, or children, may lead to early puberty and that fetal exposure to bisphenol A may affect the prostate.

The panel notes "negligible" concerns that fetal exposure to bisphenol A produces birth defects and malformations, and "adverse reproductive effects" in adults exposed to bisphenol A. The panel's report doesn't define "adverse reproductive effects."

The CERHR will solicit public comments on its report.

Reaction to Panel's Work

The panel's conclusions are "very reassuring," Steven Hentges, PhD, tells WebMD. Hentges is the executive director of the polycarbonate-bisphenol A global group of the American Chemistry Council, an industry organization that represents firms including companies that make plastics.

The nonprofit Environmental Working Group issued a statement criticizing the panel's conclusions, claiming that the panel endorsed "an error-riddled, industry-influenced 'report' minimizing the risks that BPA poses to humans."

The panel's work comes in the wake of a statement written by 38 scientists who voice concern about bisphenol A's safety. That statement appears online in the journal Reproductive Toxicology.

About Bisphenol A

Data from lab tests and research on animals indicate that bisphenol A "may mimic the natural female sex hormone, estradiol," according to CERHR background information.

Bisphenol A leaches out of polycarbonate plastics, with more bisphenol A leaching out of heated plastics, note Ana Soto, MD, and Michele Marcus, PhD, MPH.

Soto is a professor of anatomy and cellular biology at Tufts University near Boston. Marcus is a professor of epidemiology at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health in Atlanta.

Soto and Marcus have studied bisphenol A. They're among the 38 scientists who note concerns about bisphenol A in a consensus statement published Reproductive Toxicology.

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