Chemical Fallout | A Journal Sentinel Watchdog Update
BPA found in 90% of newborns
By Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Dec. 3, 2009
A study released Wednesday which found that nine of 10 babies tested were born with bisphenol A in their systems has renewed calls for the chemical to be banned.
In the study commissioned by the Environmental Working Group, scientists found the chemical in nine of 10 randomly selected samples of umbilical cord blood.
Previous studies have found BPA in the urine of 93% of Americans tested. But Wednesday's study is the first to find it in the cord blood of U.S. newborns.
"It's alarming," Janet Gray, director of the Environmental Risks and Breast Cancer project at Vassar College, said of the study results. "What more evidence do we need to act?"
More than 6 billion pounds of BPA are used each year to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. The chemical is used in thousands of common products, including the lining of nearly all food and beverage cans and as coating for carbonless paper receipts.
BPA, which was developed as a synthetic estrogen, has been linked to breast and prostate cancer, cognitive and behavioral problems, reproductive failures, heart disease, diabetes, asthma and obesity.
Scientists and health advocates have called for the chemical to be banned but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has declared it to be safe for all uses - though that decision, based on two studies paid for by the chemical industry, is being reviewed.
The FDA's decision had been due Monday, but the agency postponed its decision. Agency officials said they are working to complete it within weeks.
BPA makers maintain that BPA is safe.
"The mere presence of a chemical in our bodies does not mean there is a threat to human health," said Steven Hentges, chief lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council, representing BPA makers.
News of the cord blood study came on the same day a U.S. Senate subcommittee met to consider an overhaul of laws governing the nation's toxic chemicals.
The Toxic Substances Control Act was passed in 1976, intending to give the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to ban toxic chemicals. Since then, however, the agency hasn't banned a single substance, including asbestos.
Loopholes have allowed companies to withhold information about the chemicals they manufacture - including the names of the chemicals.
Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, testified the law needs to be strengthened. She urged a review of BPA which, she said, has been found to interfere with the body's endocrine system, even at small doses.
"We need to protect our children at critical times of their development," she said.
Chemical makers and their lobbyists say they support an overhaul of the laws. But they do not advocate restrictions on BPA. Canada has banned BPA for use in baby bottles. Similar bans have passed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, the city of Chicago and two counties in New York. Most major baby bottle manufacturers have stopped using BPA.
Laws have been introduced in Congress to ban BPA in all food contact items.
A hearing in the Wisconsin Assembly on a proposed state ban is set for 10:45 a.m. Wednesday in the State Capitol, Room 300 NE.