Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2008

Bisphenol-A: A Chemical Found in Plastic Could Be Dangerous

Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate may be the person who was most famously reminded of the ubiquity of plastics, but a worried band of modern-day scientists are taking up the cry. The investigators are concerned about the health effects of bisphenol-A (BPA), a component in some plastics — including bottles and the lining of aluminum cans — that can easily migrate into the bloodstream. The chemical industry argues that the average dose of BPA is far too low to be harmful — and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed. But animal studies have connected even low-dose BPA exposure with cancer and other ills, and the chemical can mimic the hormone estrogen, which can cause feminizing changes in developing fetuses and infants. After the FDA ruled the chemical safe, research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that higher levels of BPA in people were associated with greater incidences of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver problems. In October, a review panel commissioned by the FDA's science board found that the federal agency's original assessment was flawed. It's up to the FDA to determine how to respond, but parents may want to avoid BPA when they can.