Toxicology expert raises concerns about FDA chemical regulations

Bisphenol A, or BPA is a chemical found in the lining of canned goods, the coating of receipt paper and many other plastics that are used every day. The Food and Drug Administration deemed it safe for use in plastics, but Frederick vom Saal, toxicology expert, spoke Wednesday about his disagreement with this assessment.

Vom Saal said the FDA used flawed studies to show that BPA is not harmful, which allows it to be used in products. The studies cited by the FDA used inappropriate dissection and analysis of organs and conducted testing on animals that were considered insensitive to this chemical.

Speaking to students and professors at the annual interdisciplinary Environmental Toxicology Open House, he said that the studies did not make good use of positive controls, which could create inaccurate results.

The FDA’s decision to use studies that showed BPA to be safe is all a politics game, said Steven Neese, post-doctoral fellow in veterinary biosciences. Neese said the regulation of BPA could cause the billion-dollar plastics industry to fall.

Vom Saal, also a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia, explained that the FDA’s heavy resistance to outlawing BPA could be because billions of dollars have just been spent on BPA plants worldwide. If the FDA suddenly outlawed BPA, it would alert people to the fact that it was a bad chemical in the first place. This would prompt many people to file lawsuits against the FDA.

BPA can affect humans in a number of ways including increasing the risk of cancer and metabolic disease, disrupting the male and female reproductive system, promoting hyperactivity and impairing learning.

“It’s a very current issue and the compounds are in a lot of our products; there is concern for the unborn and the very young,” said Jeff Levengood, professor in the department of veterinary biosciences.

BPA can lead to a number of problems in women and the unborn including infertility and fetal prostate and urethral malformations. These problems can occur when BPA binds to estrogen receptors.

He discussed the fact that low doses of BPA can also have harmful effects.

“Testing only high doses of endocrine disrupting chemicals is useful for assessing acute toxic effects but does not predict receptor mediated responses that occur at very low doses,” vom Saal said.

Vom Saal also said BPA stimulates the proliferation of human prostate cancer cells.

These health concerns will persist if the FDA does not acknowledge the adverse effects of BPA, which led vom Saal to recommend that the U.S. develop a new food safety agency.

“We need a way to this keep this out of the environment and not just food products,” he added.

Many who attended vom Saal’s discussion said they enjoyed learning how BPA adversely affects people.

“I thought he did a really good job with the history and the politics behind BPA as well as providing information about the science,” said Jodi Hans, professor in the school of veterinary medicine.

Other students, including Jackye Peretz, graduate student, were impressed by vom Saal’s controversial stance against the FDA.

“It’s nice that he’s willing to go against the FDA and big corporations to push through better regulations with chemicals used in everyday society,” Peretz said.