WASHINGTON — Twelve environmental, consumer and religious groups are asking the Food and Drug Administration to cut back on potentially hazardous materials they say can leach from some plastics.
The National Environmental Trust, the Children's Defense Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility and U.S. Public Interest Research Group on May 12 asked FDA to stop the use of bisphenol A in baby bottles and the plasticizer di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate in PVC packaging.
``It is not that there is major evidence of harm to children,'' said Philip Clapp, president of the Washington-based National Environmental Trust. ``There is a large hole in the research. Before children are harmed, we should fill that gap.''
The plastics industry responded that FDA has tested polycarbonate baby bottles and considers them safe. FDA tests have not found any leaching of BPA under normal-use conditions. FDA officials could not be reached.
NET Research Director Thomas Natan said FDA acknowledged that its tests of normal-use conditions used juice and formula, which mask BPA and make it very difficult to detect.
NET's arguments boil down to research that BPA is an endocrine disrupter — the chemical was initially discovered in the 1930s as a synthetic hormone — and that it can leach from plastic.
NET pointed to recent research by University of Missouri professor Fred Vom Saal that BPA is harmful at very low doses that previously were considered safe. Natan said that the safety level now is 50 milligrams of substance per kilograms of body weight per day of BPA, while the Missouri research suggests effects in mice at much less than one mg/kg per day.
But that research is controversial, with industry officials calling it a variant study that has not been reproduced. APC spokeswoman Susan Moore said parents should not react to NET's ``cruel scare tactics.''
At a Washington news conference, Vom Saal said other research is underway that is finding similar low-dose effects. NET said a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences analysis of a Chemical Industry Institute of Toxicology study found a statistically significant increase in animal prostate weight at low doses of BPA.
But an industry scientist speaking at another Washington news conference, John Heinze, disagreed with that assessment of the CIIT study. Some scientists think that mice get enlarged prostates from different mechanisms than people, said Heinze, who is senior vice president-science for consulting firm John Adams Associates in Washington.
NET also said Japanese research has found BPA migrates out of PC soup bowls in normal-use conditions. Some local governments in Japan have restricted its use.
The groups also are asking FDA to restrict DEHA because they say it can leach from grocery store film wrap into cheeses eight times more than European Economic Community safety levels.
A 5-year-old eating 1.5 ounces of cheese would exceed the European standard, Natan said. Industry officials said adults would have to eat 1,000 pounds of cheese a day to be in danger. The U.S. government considers the wrap safe.