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MedicalCompassMD

Compound in plastic faces Suffolk ban


February 04, 2009 | 09:07 AM
Last spring, the Food and Drug Administration formed an agency-wide task force to study current research and new information about the compound Bisphenol A, or BPA, found in many household plastics and which research has concluded is an endocrine disrupter.

As a result of that review, the federal agency determined that "FDA-regulated products containing BPA currently on the market are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from food contact materials, including for infants and children, are below those that may cause health effects."

"At this time," the report continued, "the FDA is not recommending that anyone discontinue using products that contain BPA while we continue our risk assessment process. However, concerned consumers should know that several alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles exist, including glass baby bottles."

That information is still posted on the FDA website almost a year later, and it is "totally flawed," Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) claims.

"Their own panels of scientists have revealed that their study is flawed," he said during a press conference Tuesday.

Stern introduced legislation on Feb. 3, up for a possible vote March 3, that would ban the sale in Suffolk of any children's beverage containers that contain BPA. Anyone who violates the law would pay a fine of $500, with repeat offenders paying $1,000 for each violation.

Stern announced his bill Tuesday, joined by various public health and environmental advocates, including Karen Miller, director of the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition. She agreed that "strong legislative measures are urgently needed to eliminate the use or sale of baby products containing BPA. Several animal studies have demonstrated that small exposures to doses of BPA have posed serious health risks."

Walt Whitman High School junior Zach Rotter, who also attended, addressed the public on his internship at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia last summer, when he studied BPA's effect on rats. He determined that "BPA is extremely carcinogenic."

Zach said he was inspired by an honors biology teacher and by his grandmother, who had breast cancer.

Joining him on Tuesday were three other Walt Whitman High School students who are LI Teen Environmental Activists: Rubab and Tehreem Rehman, who are sisters, and Laraib Khan.

Also there was Tawaun Weber, a representative from Vision Long Island, who echoed comments about the dangers of BPA. "Potential problems include an increased risk of cancer, obesity, an altered immune system, reproductive health problems, diabetes and more," she said. "A significant amount of research has confirmed these conclusions."

Two members of the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center — Maida P. Galvez and Phillip J. Landrigan, both MDs — urged the Legislature to support a BPA ban in Suffolk. They stated that BPA is found in the linings of canned foods, including ready-to-eat children's formulas, and in hard plastics made of polycarbonate, which is found in sports water bottles, water dispensers and baby bottles.

They said that since these substances are not chemically bound to the plastics to which they are added, they can leach out, especially when BPA-containing products are exposed to high temperatures — heating or sterilizing baby bottles in the microwave, for instance. Young children may be uniquely vulnerable to these exposures as they frequently place toys and other plastic products in their mouths, they added.

"Think of the amount of times in one day a baby is given infant formula," the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition's Karen Miller said. "Is it fair to wait for more research to take action? Is it fair to slowly phase out sales of products that contain this toxin? Absolutely no."

Stern said, "This legislation seeks to protect the most vulnerable members of our population. We cannot be too cautious when it comes to ensuring that our children are safeguarded from unnecessary exposure to toxins such as BPA."

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