An independent scientific panel took the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to task last week for failing to protect the health of the American public. Specifically, they went after the agency's assessment of the risks associated with bisphenol A (BPA). The chemical has been used for decades to harden plastic in baby bottles and thousands of other food-grade consumer items, but in recent years has been linked to prostate cancer, diabetes and other health problems in animals.
Environmentalists fear it could cause similar problems, as well as reproductive abnormalities and possibly even cancer, in humans, and think the chemical should be regulated out of food-grade products, especially those designed for children. "The current levels of exposure are not safe," says Sarah Janssen, a reproductive biologist with the environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "We should get rid of it in food containers."
For its part, the FDA responded by commissioning new research into the health effects of BPA. Environmentalists warn that even if the FDA does eventually recommend phasing out or banning BPA, it won't happen for years. In the meantime, consumers can take matters into their own hands by avoiding products containing BPA.