Baby bottles safe, FDA official says

BPA in plastic has raised worries

June 11, 2008|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,Sun reporter

WASHINGTON - Parents don't need to throw away plastic baby bottles containing the chemical BPA, government scientists told Congress yesterday, despite mounting concerns about toxic side effects.

"We do not see a need to change baby bottles," Norris Alderson, a Food and Drug Administration official, said. Michael A. Babich, a chemist at the Consumer Product Safety Commission, agreed that there was no reason to stop using the bottles.

The two officials said evidence of danger from BPA was too limited to corroborate concerns. The research has been largely done on rats, and results are conflicting, according to another government scientist, John R. Bucher.

But Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program, a government study group at the National Institutes of Health, said scientific studies suggest enough of a risk to warrant "some concern."

Because it makes plastic tough to break, BPA - technically, bisphenol A - is often used in the manufacture of products such as eyeglass lenses and helmets.

Of particular concern to parents, BPA is also found in pacifiers and the liners of baby formula cans, as well as in baby bottles. The chemical can leach out of the plastic - at levels that some researchers say threaten a child's development.

The government officials defended use of BPA and other chemicals called phthalates. Congress is considering proposals to ban BPA and phthalates as part of legislation that would overhaul the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which Democrats and interest groups have assailed as weak and ineffective.

At a House subcommittee hearing, some Democrats argued that the government shouldn't wait for irrefutable proof of harm, given that children's health is at stake. Republicans cautioned about acting prematurely.

Babich warned about the unintended consequences of replacing BPA with a substitute that might cause products to break more easily, possibly injuring infants. Alderson said the FDA is conducting more research on possible side effects.

Concerned parents have been discarding baby bottles, toys and other products containing BPA after researchers published a journal article and the National Toxicology Program reported concerns about serious side effects from even low levels of exposure.

Canada's health agency announced in April that it would ban plastic baby bottles made with the chemical and, out of concern for the safety of infants, put BPA on its list of toxic substances.

Several American companies, including Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart, are phasing out use of the chemical in some products.

jonathan.rockoff@baltsun.com

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