The US Food and Drug Administration has rejected a proposal from environmental groups to ban the use of bisphenol-A, a chemical used to harden plastics used for a wide variety of commercial and consumer products. The agency said in a statement Monday that the groups did not present compelling enough evidence to support its claims that the chemical presents a public hazard, though it did say it is continuing to investigate the chemical, commonly known as BPA.
BPA is used in everything from compact discs to canned food and dental sealants. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the petition to ban the use of BPA, about 9 in 10 Americans have traces of the chemical in their bodies because the chemical leached out of containers it's used in to food packaged within. A handful of scientists have claimed that prolonged exposure to BPA can cause damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, leading to cancer, especially when ingested by babies and small children.
A handful of studies have linked BPA to cancer and other diseases in rodents and other lab animals, but the FDA said in its investigation it has not found the same evidence of a cancer link in humans. The agency also said that humans digest and eliminate BPA much more quickly than lab animals, meaning the risk associated with prolonged exposure would not be as significant. The NRDC began petitioning for a ban on the us of BPA in 2008, but the FDA failed to respond within the required time, and the group sued the agency, leading to a ruling from a federal judge that the FDA had to respond by March.
In response to the controversy, a number of consumer companies have begun removing BPA from their products, including Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us. The six largest manufacturers of baby bottles went BPA-free with their products by the end of 2009, and Campbell's Soup announced earlier this month that it would remove BPA from its canned soups, though a time frame was not indicated.