By Jim Kouri
December 7, 2007
In comprehensive tests for an industrial chemical used in the United States to line cans of foods, a watchdog group's laboratory discovered a compound linked to birth defects in more than half of the samples of canned fruit, vegetables, soda, and baby formula from supermarket shelves, according to an Environmental Working Group report released last November.
The lab tests conducted for EWG found bisphenol A, or BPA, in 55 of 97 cans of food purchased from major supermarket chains in the states of California, Connecticut and Georgia. The EWG lab tested 27 national name brands and three store brands, according to their report.
As a result, the potential for BPA to cause birth defects and reproductive harm is being evaluated by a federal advisory panel at the Center for Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Major concerns have been raised regarding the integrity of CERHR science and conflicts of interest on the part of a private contractor, Sciences International (SI). SI plays a major management role in CERHR operations while at the same time doing business with a client base that includes manufacturers of chemicals under review by the Center, including BPA.
A professor of medicine and practicing physician at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx, New York told Newswithviews.com that as long as the people conducting research of chemical additives are beholding to multinational corporations and conglomerates, Americans are not being protected from disease-causing additives.
The medical professor said, "On the one hand you have government officials who may be incompetent or corrupt, and on the other hand you have private groups with a political agenda. Neither faction is looking out for the well-being of the public -- they each have their own hidden agenda."
BPA is an ingredient used in plastics and the epoxy resins that line food cans. Low doses of BPA lead to a range of health problems, including birth defects of the male and female reproductive systems in laboratory animals, according to some laboratory tests. Despite the growing evidence of risk to human health, there are no limits placed on the amount of BPA allowed in canned food.
The tests found that pregnant women and infants who eat even a single serving of some canned foods are exposed to unsafe doses of BPA. Of the foods tested -- which included many of the canned foods eaten most often by women of childbearing age -- BPA levels were highest in canned pasta and soup. Canned infant formula also had high levels. Just one to three servings of food with these BPA levels could expose a pregnant woman or infant to harmful doses of the chemical.
"BPA reads like a case study of how badly our chemical safety system is broken," claims Jane Houlihan, vice president for research at EWG.
"We've known it's toxic for 75 years, it's polluting the bodies of almost all Americans, but we allow it in our food at levels that leave no margin of safety for pregnant women and young children," she stated in a press release.
"Scientists have detected BPA in breast milk, serum, saliva, urine, amniotic fluid, and cord blood from at least 2,200 people in Europe, North America, and Asia," said Jovana Ruzicic, of EWG.
"Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently detected BPA in 95% of nearly 400 U.S. adults and children," she said.
The last comprehensive review of low dose studies found that the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed studies -- 94 of 115 -- of have confirmed BPA's toxicity at low levels of exposure.
"Few chemicals have been found to consistently display such a diverse range of harm at such low doses," said political strategist Mike Baker, himself a parent of an infant and a toddler.
"Where are these government agencies that supposedly exist to protect Americans?" Baker asks.
From baby shampoo to diaper wipes, children are exposed to products every day containing chemicals that have not been assessed for their hazards to children, according to an investigation by Environmental Working Group that exposes the lack of federal safety protections for children's personal care products.
In an online survey of more than 3,300 parents, EWG found that the average child is exposed through body care products to 27 chemicals a day that have not been found safe for children, including some associated with cancer, brain and nervous system damage, allergies and hormone disruption. These chemicals are common ingredients in baby shampoo, lotion, diaper cream, sunscreen, and a number of other children's body care products.
"Just because a shampoo or sunscreen is labeled 'children's' doesn't mean it's been tested and found safe for kids," said Jane Houlihan. "Children are more at risk than adults from many chemical hazards, but we have no special standards to protect them."
"Children are typically more vulnerable to chemicals than adults," said Dr. Charles Posner, a pediatrician at Beth Israel Hospital.
"A child's skin is 30 percent thinner than an adult's, and can absorb greater amounts of chemicals from the skin surface. They breathe in more air (and air pollution) relative to their weight than adults, and the blood-brain barrier that helps block chemicals from penetrating brain tissue is not fully formed until a baby is six months old," he told Newswithviews.com.
"Even then, many chemicals cross this barrier and target developing brain tissue, with potential life-long harmful effects," he added.
There are other chemical additives that have been neglected by testing laboratories. For example, Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) are a family of fluorine-containing chemicals with unique properties to make materials stain and stick resistant. PFCs are incredibly resistant to breakdown and are turning up in unexpected places around the world. Although these chemicals have been used since the 1950s in countless familiar products such as Teflon pans and Scotchgard products, and they've been subjected to little government scrutiny.
Another group of chemicals the identified as needing closer examination was phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals used in hundreds of products, such as toys, vinyl flooring and wall covering, detergents, lubricating oils, food packaging, pharmaceuticals, blood bags and tubing, and personal care products, such as nail polish, hair sprays, soaps, and shampoos. There is still a controversy as to whether or not Phthalates are harmful to human beings and at what levels.
82% of children are exposed every week to one or more ingredients with the potential to harm the brain and nervous system.
69% of children are exposed every week to one or more ingredients that may disrupt the hormone system, and 3.6% of children are exposed to ingredients with strong data linking them to cancer, including chemicals classified as known or probable human carcinogens.
80% of children's products marked as gentle and non-irritating contain ingredients linked to allergies and skin or eye irritation according to government and industry sources.
The safety of baby products falls under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but unlike for drugs and food additives, the FDA has no power to require that cosmetics are tested for safety before they are sold.
And due to other loopholes in the law, manufacturers are free to use any claim they wish, such as "safe" and "ultra mild," without proof, and many do just that.
"In the absence of adequate regulation, the manufacturers of children's products should take responsibility to inform and protect their customers," said Michael Passoff, associate director of the As You Sow Foundation, which supported the study.
As You Sow represents shareholders in engaging publicly held companies to adopt more progressive social and environmental policies "Something shouldn't be marketed to kids if it's not proven safe for them," said Passoff.
Included in EWG's analysis is a comprehensive Safety Guide to Children's Personal Care Products to help concerned parents decide which products are best for their children, and which ones to avoid available here. It provides recommendations on choosing safer products instead of the many that contain ingredients of concern for children.
"The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has long been concerned about childhood exposures to unsafe ingredients in cosmetics and body care products because the scientific evidence indicates that timing of exposure matters," said Janet Nudelman, coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
"EWG's childhood exposures survey helps us better understand the extent to which kids are being exposed to chemicals linked to hormone disruption, nervous system problems, cancer, reproductive risks, and allergies," she said.
Senator John Kerry (D-MA) is introducing a bill that increases FDA regulation of personal care products and cosmetics, including baby products. This legislation would enable FDA to ensure that all ingredients contained in personal care products, including cosmetics, are safe for use by children and adults. Chemicals that cause cancer in people or animals would be banned from use in personal care products. Today, the FDA doesn't require studies or testing to determine a product's safety before a cosmetic product is put on the shelves of a pharmacy or grocery store.
"The government's falling down on the job when children are being exposed to untested products and chemicals that are supposed to clean and protect them. Parents deserve a government they can trust to screen these products thoroughly and ensure their safety. You don't leave our kids' safety to the marketing gurus and cosmetics executives and hope for the best, " said Kerry.
1, The Bisphenol-A Debate: A Suspect Chemical in Plastic Bottles and Cans
2, Two Words - Bad Plastic
3, WARNING: The chemical bisphenol A has been known to pose severe health risks to laboratory animals. AND THE CHEMICAL IS IN YOU.