The Food and Drug Administration, criticized by its own scientific advisers for ignoring available data about health risks posed by a chemical found in everyday plastic, said yesterday it has no plans to amend its position on the substance but will continue to study it.
The agency has been reviewing its risk assessments for bisphenol A, a chemical used to harden plastic that is found in a wide variety of products, from baby bottles to compact discs to the lining of canned goods. The chemical, commonly called BPA, mimics estrogen and may disrupt the body's carefully calibrated endocrine system.
BPA is found in the urine of more than 90 percent of the U.S. population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists believe it is most easily ingested after leaching from plastic containers into food and drink. In September, the first large study of BPA in humans found that people with higher levels of bisphenol A had higher rates of heart disease, diabetes and liver abnormalities.
Over the past decade, more than 130 studies have linked BPA to breast cancer, obesity, diabetes, neurological problems and other disorders. Much of the new research suggests that BPA has an effect at very low doses -- lower than the current safety standard set by the FDA. The most prominent finding was by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, which reported that there is "some concern" that BPA may affect the brain and behavioral development of fetuses, infants and young children.
The FDA has maintained that BPA is safe, relying largely on two studies that were funded by the chemical industry.