Tuesday, March 06, 2007

EWG Says Common Industrial Chemical Linked To Birth Defects

Mar 5: The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report saying that an industrial chemical used to line cans of foods is linked to birth defects and was found in more than half of the samples of canned fruit, vegetables, soda, and baby formula from supermarket shelves. EWG said a comprehensive independent laboratory analysis conducted for EWG found bisphenol A (BPA), in 55 of 97 cans of food purchased from major supermarket chains in California, Connecticut and Georgia. The lab tested 27 national name brands and three store brands. Further, the tests found that pregnant women and infants who eat even a single serving of some canned foods are exposed to unsafe doses of BPA. Of the foods tested -- which included many of the canned foods eaten most often by women of childbearing age -- BPA levels were highest in canned pasta and soup. Canned infant formula also had high levels. Just one to three servings of food with these BPA levels could expose a pregnant woman or infant to harmful doses of the chemical.

EWG said the potential for BPA to cause birth defects and reproductive harm is being evaluated today (March 5) by a Federal advisory panel at the Center for Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR), a division of the National Institutes of Health [See WIMS 2/26/07]. On February 28, EWG raised major concerns about the integrity of CERHR science and conflicts of interest on the part of a Center contractor, Sciences International (SI) [See WIMS 2/28/07]. SI plays a major management role in CERHR operations while at the same time doing business with a client base that includes manufacturers of chemicals under review by the Center, including BPA.

BPA is an ingredient in plastics and the epoxy resins that line food cans. It also has many other common uses in CDs, DVDs, electrical and electronic equipment, automobiles, and sports safety equipment. EWG said that low doses of BPA lead to a range of health problems, including birth defects of the male and female reproductive systems in laboratory animals. EWG said that despite the growing evidence of risk to human health, there are no limits on the amount of BPA allowed in canned food. Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at EWG said, "BPA reads like a case study of how badly our chemical safety system is broken. We've known it's toxic for 75 years, it's polluting the bodies of almost all Americans, but we allow it in our food at levels that leave no margin of safety for pregnant women and young children."

An independent panel of 15 scientists convened by CERHR, is reviewing recent scientific data and reaching conclusions regarding whether or not exposure to the commonly used chemical is hazardous to human development or reproduction. The expert panel is meeting March 5-7 to review and revise the draft expert panel report on BPA, and write its summary, conclusions and critical data needs. The 2.5 day scientific meeting is open to members of the public and the media.

Access a release, extensive background information including the conflict charges and the report from EWG (
click here). Access a CERHR release on the review meeting (click here). Access details about the meeting, including panelists and agenda (click here). Access the CERHR BPA Draft 372-page report (click here). [*Toxics]