Safety of Water Bottles, Baby Bottles Questioned

Reusable plastic water bottles may be good for the environment, but a new study shows they might be bad for your health.

There's a possibility that the chemical found in plastic water bottles, baby bottles and the lining of many food, drink and baby formula cans could be linked to health problems, including prostate cancer, breast cancer and early-onset puberty, according to a chemical evaluation released Monday night by the Department of Health and Human Services' National Toxicology Program.

The evaluation doesn't reverse any opinions about the chemical but simply raises new concerns.

The draft brief found some worry that exposure to the chemical bisphenol A, known as BPA, could have neural and behavioral effects on fetuses, infants and children at existing exposure levels.

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"The possibility that bisphenol A may alter human development cannot be dismissed," the evaluation noted.

Indeed, the study failed to put to rest long-standing worries about whether the widely used chemical is safe, and ensures that scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration's decision to approve BPA will continue. While some have argued the chemical is associated with health risks, the FDA and industry experts have stood by their controversial conclusion that the chemical is not harmful.

The chemical helps make plastic tough and shatter-resistant; the plastic is used in food and drink containers, bike helmets, dental sealants and more.

At the American Chemistry Council, Steve Hentges, executive director of the polycarbonate/BPA global group, said today that there's still no evidence of serious health risks or need to remove BPA from the market. This evaluation echoes many of the already published findings about BPA, Hentges said.

"In every case, what they point out is that the existing data provide only limited evidence for those health effects," he said. "It suggests additional research is needed in some areas, and we don't disagree with that at all.

"But the data as it currently stands does not indicate that there is a significant risk associated with bisphenol A."

But others said Tuesday that the evaluation is a critical development.

"This corrects the scientific record," said Anila Jacob, senior scientist at Environmental Working Group, an organization that has routinely spoken out against the chemical. "It breaks new scientific ground. This is significant."

The Politics of Baby Bottles

Concern about BPA is not confined to the United States. Canada has just officially labeled BPA as dangerous, according to today's Globe and Mail, which could prompt a broad ban or restrictions.

In the United States, caregivers, medical experts and lawmakers alike have questioned the FDA's decision to approve the chemical, contending that the agency made the wrong call.

While the FDA points to two studies showing BPA is safe, several congressional Democrats charge that the research on which the FDA relied was funded by the American Plastics Council.

Since then, lawmakers have been eager to find out whether the FDA is too close for comfort with the industry it regulates at the expense of public health.

"These findings of BPA's dangers are based on the totality of research around this chemical," said Rep. John D. Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, in a Tuesday statement. "These assessments fly in the face of the FDA's determination that BPA is safe."

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