Why Is FDA Protecting the BPA Lobby?

May 19, 2009
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As we have reported in previous issues of Pulse of Health Freedom, bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical in the packaging or contents of many products, may cause long-term health effects, including cancers of the breast, brain and testicles; lowered sperm counts, early puberty and other reproductive system defects; diabetes; attention deficit disorder, asthma, and autism. A decade ago, the government promised to test these chemicals. It still hasn’t.

As federal regulators hold fast to their claim that a chemical in baby bottles is safe, emails obtained by the (Milwaukee, WI) Journal Sentinel show that the FDA relied on chemical industry lobbyists to examine bisphenol A’s risks, track legislation to ban it, and even monitor press coverage.

In one instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s deputy director sought information from the BPA industry’s chief lobbyist to discredit a Japanese study that found it caused miscarriages in workers who were exposed to it. This was before government scientists even had a chance to review the study.

The FDA relied on two studies—both paid for by chemical makers—to form the framework of its draft review declaring BPA to be safe. Now the revelations contained in these emails show a pattern of preferential treatment over the past nine years that was not afforded to independent scientists.

BPA—used to make hard, clear plastic common in many food product containers, and also a staple of orthodontics and dentistry—is found in the urine of 93% of Americans.

The Journal Sentinel reports that they contacted several independent scientists who are BPA experts, and all said they were not given access to FDA safety assessors, nor did the FDA seek their opinions or ask them to review studies. Some said they were discouraged at not being able to get their views across to government regulators, and resented what they saw as unfair treatment.

FDA administrators declined to comment on the specifics of the emails. But Jesse Goodman, newly appointed as the FDA’s acting chief medical officer, said the agency will take a “fresh look” at BPA that will include a wider network of opinions than previously had been considered.

“We have heard the criticism” about the FDA being too cozy with chemical makers, Goodman said. “We are following through to make sure that we look at all the science.”

In October, the FDA’s own advisory committee said that its examination was not thorough enough and that FDA scientists improperly discounted dozens of studies that showed the chemical caused harm. The committee recommended that the FDA reopen its review of the chemical, but so far the agency has not changed its opinion. Six months later, the FDA has yet to hold a public meeting on BPA safety.

Dozens of emails and more than 100 pages of attachments were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. They show that chemical trade association lobbyists routinely have met with FDA administrators over the past nine years to give their opinion on various independent studies on the effects of BPA. At times, the lobbyists’ comments appeared to dismiss work as incomplete or amateurish.

In other emails, trade lobbyists notified FDA officials about upcoming news reports focused on the dangers of BPA and advised FDA to consider issuing a statement to reassure consumers about the safety of the food supply.

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