Panel Rebukes FDA on Plastic Bottle Safety

Do your baby bottles, water bottles and other hard plastic containers have a recycling number 7 printed on them? If so, they may not be as safe as the U.S. government initially said.

This week, scientific advisers to the Food and Drug Administration said the agency's conclusions were flawed when it came to determining whether the chemical in those products was safe for consumers' health, according to a report released Tuesday.

Watch "World News With Charles Gibson" TONIGHT at 6:30 ET for the full report.

The latest report is at odds with the FDA's repeated assurances that the chemical bisphenol A, known as BPA, is safe. The FDA has said BPA is not a problem at current levels of exposure despite actions taken by other governments and manufacturers of plastic products that suggest otherwise.

ABCs Lisa Stark

"When we looked at the draft report, we felt that it was incomplete in a few very important aspects," Dr. Garret FitzGerald, a member of the scientific advisory board and a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told ABC News on Wednesday.

"The original draft was largely configured on the results of studies that had been supported by industry to meet regulatory requirements," he said.

The advisory board's report found that the exclusion of certain studies from its assessment and a less-than-full examination of how BPA can affect the prostate and neurobehavior amounted to "a major omission" on the part of the FDA.

It also said certain topics were "not well explored" and concluded that the FDA's assessment has "important limitations" because it did not use enough samples of infant formula to adequately examine babies' exposure to the chemical.

Today in Los Angeles, consumer Sabrina Weisz found those findings disturbing.

"It feels like it's just one more thing out there that we have to worry about and we shouldn't have to worry about it," Weisz said. "We should be able to trust those that say they are testing and say things are safe. We should be able to trust those people. And it worries me."

The FDA has been planning to discuss the chemical at a meeting Friday.

In a statement released Tuesday night, the agency said, "The subcommittee report to the Science Board raises important questions regarding the draft safety assessment, and the FDA looks forward to the review of the subcommittee's report by the Science Board on Oct.31."

The FDA also suggested alternatives for worried parents whose young children are thought to be most at risk from BPA exposure.

"Parents who, as a precaution, wish to use alternatives for their bottle-fed babies can use glass and other substitutes for polycarbonate plastic bottles; avoid heating formula in polycarbonate plastic bottles; and consult their pediatrician about switching to powdered infant formula."

A Dec. 2007 study from the Environmental Working Group found that BPA was less likely to leach into powdered formula than liquid formula.

A Simmering Controversy

Parents, medical experts and lawmakers have long said the agency made the wrong call in approving the chemical.

But controversy over BPA has reached new heights in recent months. A few weeks ago, Canada declared the chemical toxic and banned using it in baby bottles. In September, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked the chemical to diabetes and heart disease in adults.

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