FDA says it's powerless to regulate Bisphenol A
U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials say they are powerless to regulate BPA, although they have declared the chemical to be a safety concern for fetuses, babies and young children.
A quirk in the rules allows BPA makers to skirt federal regulation.
"We may have to go after legislation to change it," Joshua Sharfstein, the FDA's principal deputy director, told the Journal Sentinel. The newspaper has been investigating the government's lack of regulation regarding BPA for three years.
FDA officials announced Friday that they had reversed their position that bisphenol A is safe. The chemical, used to line most food and beverage cans, has been found in the urine of 93% of Americans tested.
The agency now considers BPA to be of some concern for effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses and the very young. Scientific studies have raised concerns about the chemical's link to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, reproductive failures and behavioral problems.
The FDA did not ban the chemical, although top scientists, including Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Toxicology Program, say they consider the safety of BPA to be uncertain. An agency source says some from within the FDA wanted to follow Canada's lead and ban it from baby bottles - or from the lining of infant formula cans - but administration officials have resisted, concerned that babies who rely on bottled formula would be left without healthy alternatives.
"They couldn't take it off the shelves when there aren't substitutes in place," said the source, who asked not to be identified because the issue is so politically charged in the agency.
[...]Last year, more than 6 billion pounds of BPA was made, representing nearly $7 billion in sales. U.S. companies that make BPA are Bayer Material Science; Dow Chemical Co.; SABIC Innovative Plastics (formerly GE Plastics); Hexion Specialty Chemicals; and Sunoco Chemicals.
Company officials have evaded questions about their product. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) has written letters to BPA makers demanding information about their production levels but has gotten no reply.
"They absolutely stonewalled them, just like they stonewall anyone who wants information," said Fred vom Saal, a University of Missouri scientist who has advocated a ban of BPA. Vom Saal has debated against industry lobbyists at government hearings.