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Posted 04.13.05

Scientific Research Mounts Against Widely Used Chemical in Everyday Plastic Products

MU Researcher to Speak to California Lawmakers Considering Ban

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The bottles used to feed babies or the container holding leftovers in the refrigerator could cause serious harm. Scientific evidence is mounting and the fight against a widely used chemical is being brought into the political arena. The University of Missouri-Columbia researcher, whose original study brought the adverse health effects of Bisphenol-A (BPA) to light, now has the backing of more than 95 other independent scientific studies with findings that match. California lawmakers will use this evidence as they consider the nation's first ban of BPA in plastic products made for babies and toddlers.

Bisphenol-A, a man-made chemical, is used to manufacture polycarbonate products such as hard plastic baby bottles, food storage containers, water bottles, toys, pacifiers and baby teethers. The chemical also is found in epoxy resins that coat the inside of food cans and dental sealants for children's teeth.

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Environmental Health Perspectives

MU Professor of Biological Sciences Frederick vom Saal said recent studies have shown that BPA is extremely harmful in very low doses. The chemical acts like the female hormone estrogen and interferes with the body's natural processes. BPA has been linked to adverse effects on male and female reproduction, altered immune system function, behavioral changes, learning disabilities, brain damage and an increased chance for certain cancers. Researchers are concerned about the exposure of babies to the chemical, which can cause irreversible damage.

"The science is clear and the findings are not just scary, they are horrific," vom Saal said. "When you feed a baby out of a clear, hard plastic bottle, it's like giving the baby a birth control pill."

The case for a new government safety standard concerning BPA is documented in vom Saal's article published today in the monthly journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The last U.S. Environmental Protection Agency risk assessment for BPA was conducted in the 1980's. In his paper, vom Saal says that the latest research showing adverse effects of the chemical are all conducted with an amount of BPA less than the government standard at levels normally found in the human body.

"If BPA was treated as a drug, it would have been pulled immediately," vom Saal said. "We are not saying get rid of plastics. This chemical can be replaced right now by safer materials and the public would never notice the difference."

More than 6.4 billion pounds of BPA is manufactured every year by 15 corporations. The chemical industry conducted 11 studies and found no problems. These studies took place after vom Saal, collaborating with MU colleagues, published his findings eight years ago. Since then, independent scientists have conducted nearly 100 studies, all showing adverse health effects from low doses of BPA.

The California legislature is proposing a bill banning all use of BPA in products made for children three years of age or younger. In a hearing on the bill next week, vom Saal will speak to the California legislature in support of the proposed ban.



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