Panel Criticizes FDA Bisphenol A Report

Scientists Criticize 'Important Limitations' in FDA Draft Report on Bisphenol A Safety

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on October 29, 2008
From the WebMD Archives

Oct. 29, 2008 -- The controversy over the plastic chemical bisphenol A is heating back up, with a panel of scientists criticizing an FDA draft report on bisphenol A safety.

Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is a chemical found in polycarbonate plastic -- including some water bottles and baby bottles -- and in the lining of canned goods.

Some research, mostly done on animals, suggests possible health risks from bisphenol A exposure, especially early in life. But an FDA draft report says bisphenol A is safe at typical exposure levels from food and drink.

Now, an independent subcommittee has reviewed the FDA draft report, at the FDA's request, and has posted these criticisms:

  • Some studies were excluded without enough explanation.
  • Uncertainty in bisphenol A research wasn't mentioned enough.
  • The FDA's margins of safety for bisphenol A are "inadequate."
  • More attention should have been paid to infants' exposure to bisphenol A.

Removing Bisphenol A From Baby Bottles?

The American Chemistry Council, a plastics industry trade group, issued a statement about the review of the draft report.

In that statement, the council pledges to abide by whatever the FDA decides about bisphenol A.

"If the [FDA] determines that existing margins of safety are insufficient in infant applications, our member companies that manufacture BPA will put processes in place to promptly phase out the use of materials containing BPA in baby bottles and infant formula packaging," the council states.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit group that wants bisphenol A banned in food containers, also issued a statement about the subcommittee's review.

"The FDA has consistently ignored science and sound policy, putting corporate interests ahead of public protection ... it's time for the FDA to protect infants and pregnant women," says NRDC reproductive biologist Sarah Janssen, MD, PHD.

FDA Responds

The scientific panel has raised "important questions," states an FDA news release. The FDA isn't brushing off those questions and calls for more research.

Meanwhile, the FDA hasn't changed its standards for bisphenol A safety -- or its advice to consumers.

"Consumers should know that, based on all available evidence, the present consensus among regulatory agencies in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan is that current levels of exposure to BPA through food packaging do not pose an immediate health risk to the general population, including infants and babies," the FDA states.

Last week, the Canadian government said it would ban bisphenol A in baby bottles. The FDA points out that that action was taken "out of an abundance of caution," and that Canadian scientists haven't found any proof of harm to babies with typical exposure to bisphenol A.

Here's where the FDA's draft report stands:

  • It's already been discussed at a public meeting.
  • It's gone through peer review -- that's the review by independent scientists.
  • Next, an FDA advisory committee takes the topic up on Oct. 31.

Those are steps toward the FDA's final report on bisphenol A -- and there is no deadline for that.

Show Sources


FDA Science Board Subcommittee on BIsphenol A: "Scientific Peer-Review of the Draft Assessment of BIsphenol A for Use in Food Contact Applications."

Statement, American Chemistry Council.

News release, Natural Resources Defense Council.

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