FDA will rule on plastics additive this fall

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing scientific data about a controversial plastics additive and would make a final determination about the safety of bisphenol A, or BPA, by late November, the agency's chief scientist said yesterday.

The scientist, Jesse Goodman, said at a meeting of FDA's science board that Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will decide after the review whether BPA is safe when used in food containers.

BPA is a high-protein industrial chemical that has been used for decades to make polycarbonate plastics and the epoxy linings of tin cans. It is popular because of its durability and ability to withstand high temperatures.

Concern has been raised in recent years because it mimics estrogen and has been shown to cause developmental problems and precancerous growth in animals.

FDA said last year that the chemical is safe because the small amounts that leach out of food containers do not threaten children or adults. The science board objected to that decision last fall, saying FDA had failed to take into account numerous scientific studies and came to faulty conclusions.

FDA's current review will consider more than 100 studies, the agency said.

Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said it is good that the agency is taking such a sweeping look at the science, but that FDA should be moving forward with a policy decision while it reviews the science.

"We really wish FDA would make a policy decision now because we think there is enough evidence out there to take action," Sass said. "But as far as the science goes, we're glad they're doing a larger sweep of the science."

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