Capitalizing on funding from the economic stimulus bill, federal researchers will double their spending to nearly $30 million during the next two years to research the effects on human health of the controversial chemical bisphenol A.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences announced Oct. 28 that 10 grants totaling $14 million have been awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to study the effects of BPA. NIEHS is part of the National Institutes of Health.
BPA is often part of the raw materials used to make polycarbonate and epoxy resins. Some researchers are concerned about health effects from food-storage products that contain BPA such as tableware, food-storage containers, water and baby bottles and canned foods.
The Food and Drug Administration currently is reviewing BPA safety and said it will decide by Nov. 30 whether it needs to change its long-held stance that there is not enough data to support a ban on the use of BPA in food packaging.
NIEHS said the $30 million will include new grants, existing grants, in-house work and National Toxicology Program research. The NTP effort is part of larger five-year collaboration with the FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research to examine long-term health outcomes resulting from developmental exposures.
Key federal researchers met earlier this month in North Carolina.
Bringing the key BPA researchers together at the onset of new funding will maximize the impact of our expanded research effort, said Linda Birnbaum, who is director of both the NIEHS and the NTP, an interagency program for the Department of Health and Human Services. We know that many people are concerned about BPA and we want to support the best science we can to provide the answers.
In 2008, NTP and NIEHS concluded that there is evidence from animal studies that BPA may be causing adverse effects such as infertility; weight gain; behavioral changes; early onset puberty; prostate and mammary gland cancer; and diabetes. But researchers are uncertain about whether the changes seen in the animal studies would result in human health problems.
The newly funded research, which will include two-year animal and human studies, will focus on both developmental exposures and adult chronic exposures to low doses of BPA. Researchers will look at a number of health effects including behavior; obesity; diabetes; reproductive disorders; development of prostate, breast and uterine cancer; asthma; cardiovascular diseases; and transgenerational or epigenetic effects.
Without the support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we would not have been able to expand on this research that is of such concern to so many people, Birnbaum said. Through this effort we will be able to provide a better perspective of the potential threat that exposure to BPA poses to public health.
Jerry Heindel, health scientist administrator at the NIEHS who oversees much of the institute's portfolio on BPA, agreed.
Having the key players talking to one another as they begin new research efforts will stimulate collaboration, create opportunities to share resources, and encourage researchers to develop reliable and reproducible methods that will allow for a comprehensive assessment of the human health effects of BPA, he said.
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