Protect Children's Health From Toxic BPA

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

CHICAGO, IL: Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is urging public support for the recently introduced Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010, which establishes a program to review and protect children from risks of toxic exposures, including Bisphenol-A (BPA), a common contaminant in consumer goods, and, not to be forgotten, in the lining of a number of water bottles as well as tin cans.

On March 30 this year, Dr. Epstein points out, the Washington Post announced that the Environmental Protection Agency listed BPA as "a chemical of concern." The Post also noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) previously expressed "concerns about the chemical's hormonal effect on human health." However, the American Chemistry Council claims "that BPA is not a risk to the environment at current low levels."

Why does it not surprise me in the very least that the Chemical industry lobby claims Bisphenol-A (BPA) to be, basically, harmless. Is it no the very same that they do as to so many other products.
BPA is widely used in polycarbonate bottles, such as baby products, besides adult personal care and cosmetic products, food can linings, microwave oven dishes, dental sealants, and also medical devices. As well as, as indicated before, in polycarbonate water bottles, with the exception of Nalgene and the “We Want Tap” bottles, and the liners of many aluminum water bottles, including the older versions of SIGG and Gaiam.

Dr. Epstein says there are other recently recognized major sources of BPA such as cash register and credit-card receipts, which are coated with microscopic powdered BPA, and which many of us handle daily.

A 2007 review of about 700 studies on BPA, published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, found that the fetus and infants are highly vulnerable to the toxic hormonal effects of this ingredient, technically known as "endocrine disruptive."

Dr. Epstein cites an accompanying study by National Institutes of Health researchers in the same journal, reported uterine damage in newborn rodents exposed to levels of BPA comparable with those of normal human exposure. "This finding may also implicate BPA as a cause of reproductive tract disorders in women, after their earlier exposure as fetuses or infants," he warns.

Previous studies in the journal Endocrinology, and elsewhere, reported that BPA masculinizes the brain of female mice and feminizes the brain of male mice. Toxic effects of this hormone disrupter in pregnant women are evidenced in their infant baby boys by the reduction in the normal distance between their anus and genitals. This decrease in anogenital distance is also associated with a decrease in sperm production.

Based on such evidence, Health Canada declared BPA to be a "toxic chemical" in early 2008.

This ban which led to the banning of Nalgene bottles and the immediate reaction by Nalgene to change the process of manufacture for their polycarbonate bottles, now made without BPA. This proves that it can be done.

In addition to these toxic effects, exposure of pregnant rodents to BPA, at levels 2,000 times lower than the Environmental Protection Agency's "safe dose," resulted in sexual abnormalities in their offspring. Dr. Epstein warns that these abnormalities include an increased number of "terminal end buds" in breast tissue, which are associated with a subsequent high risk of breast cancer. However, an American Plastics Council spokesman claimed that the human relevance of these findings is only "hypothetical."

Dr. Epstein warns that BPA has also been found in human blood, placental and fetal tissue, and incriminated as a predisposing factor for prostate cancer. "The authors of this study also linked endocrine-dependent human cancers, such as breast cancer, to the minimal levels of BPA to which pregnant women are exposed," he says.

An August 2, 2007 consensus statement by several dozen scientists warned that BPA, even at very low exposure levels, is probably responsible for many human reproductive disorders.

A September 2008 publication, Endocrine-Related Cancer, by Dr. Gail Prins reviewed the substantial scientific evidence on the toxic hormonal effects of BPA, besides other endocrine disruptive chemicals (EDCs) in pregnant women. She concluded that children are highly sensitive to their toxic effects, particularly subsequent risks of prostate cancer.

In October 2008, Science Daily reported on an article on BPA called "A Plastic World," in a then pending special section on Environmental Research. Two other articles reported that fetal exposure to BPA disrupted the normal development of the brain and behavior in rats and mice. Other articles have also reported that BPA is massively contaminating the oceans and harming aquatic wildlife.

The June 2009 Endocrine Disruption Act authorized the National Institute of Environmental Health Science "to coordinate" research on hormone disruption to prevent exposure to chemicals "that can undermine the development of children before they are born and cause lifelong impairment of their health and function."

This bill was supported by public health, consumer and children's advocacy groups, and further strengthened by California's Senator Dianne Feinstein's legislation to ban BPA from food and beverage containers. Of major relevance, this legislation has also been endorsed by the April 2010 President's Cancer Panel On "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now," 2008-2009 Annual Report. This report further warns that "to a disturbing extent, babies are born pre-polluted."

There are safe alternatives to BPA. As emphasized in the Dr. Sam Epstein's 2009 book Toxic Beauty, the recent development of "green chemistry" has encouraged the phase-out of product packaging that relies on petrochemical plastic containers, particularly those containing BPA. These containers are now being replaced with biodegradable substitutes, including recycled paper. Such "green" packaging reduces energy use, greenhouse gases, and non-degradable or poorly degradable wastes currently disposed of in landfills.

In January this year, the FDA announced an "Update on BPA," with particular reference to its use in food packaging, plastic baby bottles, feeding cups, and metal containers, to avoid childhood exposure. However, FDA has still not taken any regulatory action to this effect. Meanwhile, Dr. Epstein says, the industry's Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel does not even make any reference to BPA in its annual "safety assessments."

On April 15, Congressmen Bobby Rush and Henry Waxman released a draft of the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act of 2010. The key provisions of this Act include establishment of a program to review and protect children from risks of toxic exposures, including BPA.

Dr. Epstein says, "The passage of this legislation is urgently needed in order to ban BPA from food packaging and other consumer products, especially to prevent any further childhood exposure."

Samuel S. Epstein, M.D. is professor emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health; Chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition; The 2005 Albert Schweitzer Golden Grand Medalist for International Contributions to Cancer Prevention; and author of over 270 scientific articles and 20 books on the causes and prevention of cancer, including the groundbreaking The Politics of Cancer (1979), and Toxic Beauty (2009, BenBella Books).

With all this evidence and proof of the dangers of BPA, especially to children's health, it is beyond comprehension that, unlike in some jurisdictions, BPA and products containing BPA have not as yet been bannded.

Then again, seeing the link that exists between the FDA and industry, once again this is not surprising though. The agency that is supposed to be independent is far from that. It is up to the people to demand a change.

© 2010