October 14, 2008

States Want BPA Ban

A chemical potentially harmful to infants is at the forefront of a dispute between attorneys general from Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware and companies that make baby bottles and baby formula containers.

On Friday, the letters were sent to baby bottle manufacturers Avent America Inc., Disney First Years, Gerber, Handicraft Co., Playtex Products Inc. and Evenflo Co., and formula makers Abbott, Mead Johnson, PBM Products, Nature's One and Wyeth.

The Food & Drug Administration said tentatively that BPA is safe based on a review of research. But Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the FDA was wrong for not taking action after a preliminary study last month drew a possible connection to BPA and risks of heart disease and diabetes.

"Unfortunately the federal agency, the Federal Food and Drug Administration, has been asleep at the switch, in fact resistant to respecting the scientific evidence that grave harm can result in use of this product," Blumenthal said.

A preliminary study released last month by the Journal of the American Medical Association found adults exposed to higher amounts of the chemical were more likely to report having heart disease and diabetes. However, the study does not give proof. The study's authors said the results need scientific follow-up.

FDA spokesman Michael Herndon said the agency is continuing to evaluate its risk assessment.

Ninety percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies, but the FDA says the levels are too low to pose a health risk, even for infants and children.

Others disagree and say BPA has been shown to hurt the human body even at low levels.

In the letters, Blumenthal cites studies that indicate BPA can attach to food in heated containers. "The preventable release of a toxic chemical directly into the food we eat is unconscionable and intolerable," he wrote.

"Unfortunately the FDA has refused to do anything about it," Blumenthal said Monday. "We're asking the 11 manufacturers to do so voluntarily."

Jay Highman, president and CEO of Nature's One, said his firm had not received the letter Monday. Highman said containers for his company's dry formulas are BPA-free and only the plastic lids have small traces of the substance.

"We look forward to responding to the letter when we receive it," Highman said.

Shannon Jenest, a spokesperson for Philips Avent, parent of Avent America, said the company has not seen the letter and plans to review it carefully upon receipt.

"Philips Avent offers an entire range of infant feeding products made from a variety of materials, including those which are BPA free," Jenest said. "We are committed to meeting the varying needs of our consumers and we will continue to evaluate our products with this in mind."

U.S. stores like Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Toys "R" Us say they are already phasing out products that contain BPA.

The European Union determined BPA-containing products are safe, but Canada's government has proposed banning the sale of baby bottles with BPA as a precaution.

BPA is used in epoxy resins used to make paints, adhesives and canned food liners. 

Experts disagree on whether the chemical poses a health risk for humans. Although animal studies have linked BPA with breast, prostate and reproductive system abnormalities and some cancers.


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