Experts demand European action on plastics chemical

Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:06pm EDT
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By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists and international health organizations from around the world called on Europe's food safety watchdog on Wednesday to regulate against exposure to a potentially harmful chemical found in plastic containers.

In an open letter to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), a group of 60 scientists and health campaigners from 15 countries said they feared exposure to the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) could damage health, particularly among vulnerable groups such as babies and pregnant women.

BPA is a mass produced chemical used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics. It is found in plastic food and drink packaging, such as baby bottles and sports bottles, and as an epoxy resin in canned food and drinks and storage containers.

Some recent scientific studies have linked BPA exposure to higher risks of health problems such heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes.

The EFSA is expected to publish a new "scientific opinion" on the safety of Bisphenol A in food packaging next month, after it was asked by the European Commission to re-assess the risks.

"Over the last decade and a half, a substantive body amounting to several hundred peer reviewed scientific papers, have been published that have highlighted potential adverse health effects associated with BPA exposures," the letter said.

"It is our opinion that any objective and comprehensive review of the scientific literature will lead to the conclusion that action is necessary to reduce the levels of BPA exposure, particularly in groups at highest risk, namely young infants and pregnant mothers."

Regulators in Canada and the United States are already beginning to take action on BPA exposure, with Canada planning to ban its use in baby bottles, but as yet there has been no similar action at a European Union level.   Continued...