Bottles from Dr. Brown's, Evenflo, Gerber, Playtex contain chemicals known to harm lab animals; industry group defends safety..................
February 27 2007: 8:35 PM EST...................................
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Independent experts convened by the National Inst_tutes of Health will meet next week to review whether exposure to a chemical commonly found in plastic products like food containers and baby bottles causes health problems.
Separately, an environmental group said new laboratory tests at the University of Missouri found that the chemical, bisphenol A, leached into liquids at potentially dangerous levels from baby bottles sold by five leading brands.
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Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is used in making polycarbonate plastic food and drink packaging.
There has been controversy over its safety. Industry views it as harmless. Environmentalists link it to developmental, neural and reproductive harm when ingested.
The NIH's National Inst_tute of Environmental Health Sciences will convene a panel of 15 scientists on March 7 to review scientific data and reach conclusions on whether exposure to it causes developmental or reproductive harm, inst_tute spokeswoman Robin Mackar said.
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The NIH said studies have indicated the chemical may mimic a natural female s_x hormone, and the upcoming review comes in part due to its widespread human exposure and evidence of reproductive toxicity in animal studies.
Mackar said Robert Chapin of Pfizer (Charts) will head the panel of scientists from academia, industry and public health groups. The panel's findings will "not necessarily" be adopted as the views of the government, Mackar said.
Rachel Gibson, a lawyer for Los Angeles-based Environment California, said the laboratory tests on bottles from all five brands - Avent, Dr. Brown's, Evenflo, Gerber (Charts) and Playtex (Charts) - were found to leach bisphenol A at amounts known to harm animals in laboratory animal studies.
"We're happy to see the federal government revisiting the issue of the safety of bisphenol A," Gibson said.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group, defended the safety of the baby bottles.
"Sound and respected scientific research has consistently shown there is no danger to consumers when products are used as intended. Trace levels of Bisphenol A from consumer products are well below any level that could cause harm to adults or to our children," the group said in a statement.
"Other scientific studies have shown that BPA has no effect on the reproductive system, no effect on the developmental system and no carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects. Recent reports indicating otherwise are both sensational and biased, and they have not received any validation from the scientific community," the group added.