FDA Won't Ban BPA Chemical in Packaging

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Despite numerous concerns, there's still debate over the true effects of BPA on humans. The World Health Organization recently issued a report concluding that although a number of studies found links between low-level BPA exposure and several health effects, including a higher risk for developing mammary tumors in rats and changes in sperm quality in men, "there is considerable uncertainty in this research."

And the authors of a study published in October that found a link between prenatal BPA exposure and the development of behavior problems in children later wrote that "the clinical relevance of these findings is unclear at this point."

LuAnn White, director of the Tulane Center for Applied Environmental Health at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, explained that the science the true effects of BPA is tricky.

BPA is one of a class of chemicals that interferes with the actions of hormones in the body, but it's still unclear exactly how these compounds work, White said.

"Laboratory experiments can determine how these chemicals work at the molecular level, but not how that molecular action affects the body since there are so many systems involved," White said. "It's difficult to control for all the possible variables that affect the body."

White said she and her colleagues are cataloguing children's exposures to a variety of chemicals and following them until they are 21, but it will be years until they can have a clearer sense of what BPA does.

She argued that BPA should be removed from consumer products since there is so much uncertainty, but also said that could raise the question of whether food packaging would be more harmful without BPA, and also whether any replacement product is safe. One purpose of BPA is to line the inside of cans, which protects the food inside from being in direct contact with the potentially toxic metals.

The American Chemistry Council called the controversy over BPA a "distraction" back in Feb. and stands by its assertion that the chemical is safe.

"Although governments around the world continue to support the safety of BPA in food contact materials, confusion about whether BPA is used in baby bottles and sippy cups has become an unnecessary distraction to consumers, legislators and state regulators," the council said.

ABC News' Brian Hartman and Katie Moisse contributed reporting.

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