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Cancer: Chicago Bans Baby Bottles – Bisphenol A

May 18, 2009

Bisphenol A, Chapter 2 
New Data Shed Light on Exposure, Potential Bioaccumulation

Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical used in a variety of consumer products, is ubiquitous in the modern environment, with residues found in the urine of an estimated 93% of Americans over 6 years of age, according to data from the 2003–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Recent research indicates that BPA acts as an endocrine disruptor and may increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and liver problems in adults. Until now, most exposure was thought to occur through diet, and the chemical was thought to clear the body quickly and completely. But a new study shows that urine BPA levels of subjects who had fasted for several hours were not as low as expected, suggesting either nondietary exposures or accumulation in fatty tissue, or both [EHP 117:784–789; Stahlhut et al.].

sources of BPA         

New findings raise the possibility that nonfood BPA exposure may be more substantive than previously thought.

images: (Clockwise from top left) Danil Vachegin/iStockphoto; Serhiy Zavalnyuk/iStockphoto; Corbis; Danish Khan/iStockphoto

Although BPA is fat-soluble and thus can accumulate in fatty tissues, animal and human data suggest it tends to be rapidly metabolized, with elimination thought to be virtually complete within 24 hours of acute exposure. To gain a better understanding of how BPA clears the body, investigators in the current study used data from 1,469 adult participants in the 2003–2004 NHANES. Study participants (excluding children and insulin-dependent diabetics) had been asked to fast for at least 6–9 hours. Using the urine drawn from each study participant, the investigators modeled log BPA concentration against fasting time, adjusting for urine creatinine and other confounders, to estimate what they called the “population-based half-life” of BPA for a 0- to 24-hour fasting period.

Previous studies have reported that BPA has a urinary elimination half-life of only 4–5 hours, but BPA levels in this population declined much more slowly, showing a drop from adjusted population peak to trough levels of only 46% by 17 hours. Although there was a relatively rapid decline in BPA levels during the 4.5- to 8.5-hour fasting interval, the BPA slope was essentially flat between 8.5 and 24 hours, suggesting very slow or minimal elimination during that time.

The findings are consistent with two possible explanations—first, that BPA exposure occurs through means other than food, and second, that BPA accumulates in body fat, from which it is gradually released over time. The authors conclude that their findings highlight the need for additional research on chronic BPA exposure, identification of significant nonfood sources of exposure (which may include dental composites and sealants, household dusts, air, recycled and carbonless paper, and the PVC pipe approved for use in residential water supply lines in many cities), and confirmation of reported data on bioaccumulation of the xenoestrogen in human adipose tissue. Confirmation of the current findings could lead to a reevaluation of BPA exposures in risk assessment studies.

Tanya Tillett

Chicago Bans Sale of Baby Bottles, Sippy Cups With BPA

Bisphenol A has been linked to diabetes, cancer and other illnesses

by Michael Hawthorne and Dan Mihalopoulos[Plastic baby bottles that do not contain bisphenol A are available. (Photo courtesy The Soft Landing)]

Plastic baby bottles that do not contain bisphenol A are available. (Photo courtesy The Soft Landing)

The City Council’s vote Wednesday to make Chicago the first U.S. city to ban bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy cups is the latest act in a groundswell of public concern about a widely used chemical that has been linked to cancer, diabetes and other ailments.

With retailers and manufacturers already phasing out use of BPA, the unanimous vote is largely symbolic. But it adds the city to a growing list of states and countries moving to eliminate the chemical from household products, especially those made for infants and children.

Minnesota adopted a similar ban last week, and lawmakers in Illinois and several other states are considering their own measures.

Chicago’s action puts it at odds with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which insists that the small amount of BPA in containers isn’t dangerous. Industry officials cited the FDA’s position when they tried to block the city’s measure this week.

But scientists increasingly are concerned that constant exposure to the chemical is harmful, even at low doses leaching from plastic. BPA has been found in 93 percent of Americans tested, with the highest levels in the youngest infants.

Responding to public pressure, many retailers, including Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us and CVS, already have vowed to stop selling bottles and containers made with BPA. Some manufacturers, including the nation’s leading baby-bottle makers, also have started to market products labeled as “BPA-free.”

For that reason, the strength of Chicago’s action may be mostly in the message it sends. But its backers noted that it calls on the Daley administration to enforce the ban and disputed that most makers of baby bottles have voluntarily stopped using BPA.

“The FDA continues to be recalcitrant and very slow about taking any action on BPA,” said Ald. Manny Flores (1st), who co-sponsored the Chicago measure with Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

BPA was developed as a synthetic hormone more than a century ago. Starting in the 1950s, industry adopted it to make hard, clear plastic and secured an FDA ruling that it was safe for use in food and drink containers.

Chicago’s ordinance bans the sale after 2010 of any empty food or drink container containing BPA that is intended for use by children less than 3 years old. Burke and Flores pushed the measure through after backing down from a more aggressive version that would have outlawed nearly any product for children that was made with the chemical.

Still, the chemical industry fought hard to thwart the scaled-back ban, including hiring former Ald. Terry Gabinski (32nd) to lobby against it. The American Chemistry Council trade group responded with a written statement that called Wednesday’s vote “unwarranted.”

“We have and will continue to develop scientific data to inform credible, transparent scientific assessments of BPA so that the public can have the confidence it deserves in the safety of these products,” it read.

When the FDA ruled last summer that BPA is safe, it ignored advice from its scientific advisory board that urged the agency to rely on more than two studies financed by the chemical industry. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that entire sections of the FDA’s decision were written by manufacturers with a financial stake in BPA.

Hundreds of other studies have linked the chemical to breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. The harmful effects appear to start early in life, when small doses of BPA, a synthetic estrogen, subtly wreak havoc on the developing bodies of fetuses and young children.

“The science is very clear: We can’t say this chemical is safe,” said Laura Vandenberg, a developmental biologist at Tufts University who has been studying BPA.

Canada last year became the first country to ban BPA in baby bottles. A more sweeping measure introduced last month in Congress would prohibit the sale of all food and drink containers made with the chemical.

Mayor Richard Daley, who had declined to take a position on the Chicago ordinance, said he doubted that city officials would have to enforce it.

“It just sends a message out,” Daley said. “Companies are not going to violate it.”

Burke and other supporters compared the BPA ban to a city ordinance adopted in the early 1970s outlawing phosphate detergents, which had been blamed for foul-smelling algae blooms that choked lakes and rivers.

But the Tribune reported in 2007 that dishwasher soap made with phosphates still dominated supermarket shelves across the city. State lawmakers later stepped in and banned all but trace amounts of the chemicals in detergents as of summer 2010.

Copyright © 2009, Chicago Tribune















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