Chicago Bans BPA in Kids Products; FDA Relied on BPA Lobbyists

Chicago Bans BPA in Kids Products; FDA Relied on BPA Lobbyists

Chicago became the first city in the U.S. to ban bisphenol A (BPA) in certain products last week, following on the news of the first state to ban BPA (Minnesota) and first county (Suffolk County, in New York) to do the same.

The Chicago ban, approved by a 48-0 vote by the City Council, bans the sale of any beverage or food containers intended for kids age 3 and under that contains BPA, a chemical that mimics estrogen and is used in a wide range of products to make hard plastic. The ban takes effect Jan. 31, 2010.

BPA has been connected to a host of reproductive and development problems, diabetes, breast and prostate cancer and other ailments in numerous laboratory studies. And while the U.S. National Toxicology Program says there is “some concern” over exposure to the chemical for small children, the FDA's most recent statement on the chemical says exposure levels are safe.

The FDA's decision, though, has been questioned due to it being based only on two studies funded by the chemical industry, and now it has been revealed that the FDA was reliant on chemical industry lobbyists for almost a decade.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that emails show the FDA gave industry lobbyists preferential treatment over the last nine years and even sought help from lobbyists to "examine bisphenol A's risks, track legislation to ban it and even monitor press coverage." The FDA sought help from the industry for examining studies, but did not seek similar analysis from independent scientists, and even ignored requests to meet.

In one instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's deputy director sought information from the BPA industry's chief lobbyist to discredit a Japanese study that found it caused miscarriages in workers who were exposed to it. This was before government scientists even had a chance to review the study.

"I'd like to get information together that our chemists could look at to determine if there are problems with that data in advance of possibly reviewing the study," Mitchell Cheeseman, deputy director of the FDA's center for food safety and applied nutrition, said in an e-mail seeking advice from Steven Hentges, executive director of the trade association's BPA group.

Late last year an advisory committee within the FDA said the FDA had not examined BPA well enough before concluding exposure to it is safe. And the FDA has said it will reexamine the chemical and take into account opinions and research that previously were not looked at.

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