Canada to Take Immediate Action to Reduce BPA Exposure for Infants
WASHINGTON – As soon as tomorrow, Canadian health officials are poised to list the synthetic sex hormone bisphenol-A (BPA) as a toxic substance. Canada’s action, which paves the way for an expected ban on BPA-based plastic baby bottles and BPA reductions in canned infant formula, is the most aggressive environmental health advance concerning the chemical undertaken by any nation.
“Infants subsist on milk for the first six months of life,” said Sonya Lunder, Senior Scientist at Environmental Working Group (EWG). “So babies fed formula from BPA-based plastic bottles and also BPA-lined cans are being exposed to much more of the chemical, relative to their weight, than their parents and older siblings. Today’s action by the Canadian government will reduce BPA contamination for babies in that country.”
EWG research has found BPA in more than half the canned foods tested, and tests show BPA leaching into all major liquid infant formula brands.
“Improvements to canned formula produced for the Canadian market can and should benefit U.S. babies because four major companies make canned infant formula sold in both countries,” Lunder added. “Unfortunately, it’s the actions of public health officials in Canada, and not at FDA, that are protecting babies in this country.”
Canada’s actions come just two weeks before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled to hear final recommendations from its Science Board BPA subcommittee over whether or not to strengthen standards for BPA in baby bottles, formula cans and other food packaging.
In contrast to Canada’s trail-blazing actions, the FDA has declared all uses of BPA to be safe, including packaging of food and beverages consumed by infants, young children and pregnant women. FDA has consistently sided with BPA manufacturers and has based its posture that BPA is harmless on just two industry-funded studies.
FDA’s stance ignores more than 100 independent, peer-reviewed studies that have linked BPA to cancer, brain and nervous system malfunctions, behavioral problems, reproductive system damage, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other serious illness.
As well, the regulatory agency is out of step with the U.S government’s National Toxicology Program, an inter-agency group within the National Institutes of Health that has concluded BPA may present some risk to fetuses and infants and has called for more study.
“When you’re a food safety regulator and your sympathies lie with the chemical industry instead of the public , you’re on the wrong side of the issue,” Lunder said.
Meanwhile, EWG is calling on FDA to halt its decision-making process on BPA while it conducts a conflict-of-interest investigation of Martin Philbert, Ph.D., the chair of its advisory panel on the chemical’s risks in food packaging. As well, EWG is pressing for a rigorous screening of all members of the agency’s Science Board, which advises the government on the risks of BPA and other chemicals found to contaminate food and water.
As reported October 11 by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Philbert failed to disclose to the FDA a $5 million gift to a University of Michigan research center which he heads from a retired medical device manufacturer and outspoken critic of efforts to restrict BPA. Despite a growing controversy over Philbert's actions, the agency signaled its intention Wednesday to proceed to judgment on BPA, with Philbert remaining a pivotal figure in the decision.