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Study finds BPA in umbilical cord blood

By Mike Verespej, Plastics News
Posted 7 December 2009
A study conducted for the US Environmental Working Group (EWG) found the presence of 232 chemicals, including bisphenol A, in the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies of African-American, Asian and Hispanic descent. But the study does not provide enough information about the levels of those chemicals to determine what type of health risk those chemicals might pose,

“The sample is too small to project national trends,” EWG said in its report. “But it is new evidence that American children are being exposed, beginning in the womb” to substances that could pose health risks.

The study only provided the geometric mean and the range for the amount of the chemicals, including BPA, that were found in the infants, which is not enough to evaluate whether there is any health risk, said Steve Hentges, executive director of the polycarbonate/BPA global group of the American Chemistry Council in Virginia.

In addition, the study failed to note whether the researchers found BPA itself or BPA metabolites, he said.

“The mere presence of BPA does not mean there is a health risk,” Hentges said. “It is an interesting study, but it is very limited in terms of what you can determine from a risk perspective. I’m not sure what you can surmise. I don’t consider this high-value data.”

Hentges noted that the presence of chemicals in umbilical cords is rarely measured, making it difficult to compare whether the levels are normal or pose a risk. “There is not a lot of data on this,” noting that researchers can assess the potential risk when BPA is measured in a person’s urine. “There is not a lot of context in this study in which to interpret the numbers.”

What’s more, because of the limited sample size — 10 infants in 5 different states — it is difficult to draw any general conclusions, Hentges added.

“The sample size is an obvious limitation,” he said. “It is difficult to extrapolate these findings to a broader population and I don’t even know if it is even representative of minority groups, let alone a broader population.”

EWG believes government bodies should take regulatory action.

“In our view, any chemical found in cord blood should be a top candidate for tough regulatory action to protect public health,” EWG said in its executive summary.

A number of laboratory studies have linked BPA to birth defects, low birth weight, cancer, early puberty and other health problems in rats. However, 11 safety agencies around the world have said that BPA is safe for use in food-contact applications.

The European Union has established a safe level of exposure to BPA at a level 1,000 times higher than the typical amount of BPA in the general population based on biomonitoring data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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