Baby Bottle Politics Trumps Science at FDA

The greens are rejoicing today because the Food and Drug Administration has softened its stance on the safety of Bisphenol A, a chemical used in the production food packaging and containers, such as baby bottles. Humans consume trace amounts of BPA in food products, but there is no direct evidence of any human health problems after decades of use.

For years, FDA has reported that BPA levels were too low to pose any significant health problems to humans. Scientific reviews around the (EU, Japan, Canada) world have drawn the same conclusion. Now FDA says it wants more study and might want to regulate in the future. But the science hasn’t changed–just the politics. Unfortunately, in today’s world, fear mongering and hype is more powerful than science.

So exactly what did FDA report this week? They “reviewed the research” and are suddenly more wary about the substance because of conclusions drawn in a 2008 National Toxicology Program report about BPA impacts on rodents. The agency notes that it could not find any direct evidence of problems among humans. It expressed minimal to negligible concern for almost all potential BPA risk factors. It expressed “some concern” in one area because some studies showed associations indicating that bisphenol A “can cause changes in the brain and behavior” and have “effects on the prostate gland” of laboratory animals. The NTP expressed “some concern” that associations between BPA and rodent development may indicate possible impacts on the development of children and human fetuses. NTP called for more research before such concerns could be dismissed.

Yet those concerns are drawn from rodent studies that have largely been dismissed around the world (as well as by FDA) as not particularly relevant or adequate for drawing conclusions. The NTP report noted: “These studies in laboratory animals provide only limited evidence for adverse effects on development and more research is needed to better understand their implications for human health.”

It is difficult to believe that FDA has suddenly found these studies compelling on scientific grounds. Instead, it appears the studies’ limitations are now being overlooked to justify a political agenda. FDA will now likely spend millions of taxpayer dollars to study this issue, but it is unlikely to find anything new. But whatever they find, you can be sure they will use it as an excuse to expand their regulatory power.