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FDA Tiptoes Around BPA

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On January 13, 2010, the online journal PLoS One (Public Library of Science One, which does not accept drug company advertising) published a babywithbottleUniversity of Exeter, England, study linking high levels of bisphenol A (BPA) in the urine with those most likely to be diagnosed with heart disease. The lead researcher noted how difficult it is to confirm the study’s results, as “it would likely be very hard to find enough people for the control group who did not have detectable levels of BPA in their urine.” That fact alone is troubling.

On January 14, 2010, the nonprofit advocacy group Environmental Working Group, citing the University of Exeter study, renewed a call for FDA regulators to immediately ban the use of BPA in food and beverage containers.

On January 15, 2010, the FDA announced “broad new research into the potential health effects of BPA used in baby bottles and other products”. But the agency’s press releases failed to report the extensive research that already links BPA to potentially detrimental health effects. The FDA did not order the recall of any product that currently contains BPA even though Joshua Sharfstein, the agency’s principal deputy commissioner, noted that “liquid (baby) formula generally has small detectable levels of BPA.” The FDA insisted it was taking “reasonable steps” to reduce BPA in the food supply, but one must wonder: What is the definition of “reasonable”?

The FDA’s failure to protect newborns and the unborn from BPA recalls the old joke “How many deaths does it take for the FDA to remove a drug from the market?” The answer (not all funny): all too many.

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