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Snuffing Out a New Industry | Critter: Greater Sage Grouse | Graphic: Where the Jobs Are | Gender Bender |
On the One Hand...: Ticks | Woe Is Us | Up to Speed

Why won't the FDA ban BPA?

Increasing evidence that even minute doses of bisphenol A (BPA) can cause cancer and other serious health problems has led many manufacturers to stop using it in plastic pacifiers, baby bottles, and water bottles. Campbell's says it will phase out BPA from its soup cans. Many smaller companies have already done so.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that it has "some concern" about the effects of BPA "on the brains, behavior and prostate glands" of fetuses, infants, and young children. In June the FDA said it had started a process that could restrict BPA from infant formula packaging. However, the agency rejected a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to ban it outright.

Why? According to the FDA, "standardized toxicity tests" say that BPA is safe. Such tests rely on the idea that the more of a substance you administer, the deadlier it will be.

But according to reproductive biologist Frederick Vom Saal of the University of Missouri—Columbia, hormone mimics such as BPA operate at "staggeringly low doses . . . millions of times lower than what toxicologists study." Endocrinologists have documented gender-bending changes in animals exposed to doses of hormone mimics at the level of parts per billion.

The FDA's decision is supported by the can industry, the American Chemical Council, and the three biggest suppliers of BPA: Dow, Bayer, and Saudi Basic Industries. This has led Vom Saal to charge that the agency is "protecting the corporations at the expense of public health." —Frances Whittelsey

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