Mass Tort Defense

Congressional Developments: Hearings and Research Service Weighs in on BPA Issues

The Congressional Research Service has released a report on Bisphenol A (BPA) in Plastics and Possible Human Health Effects. MassTortDefense previously posted on the BPA issues and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) draft report for public comment on BPA.

 The Congressional Research Service (CRS) serves as a sort of shared staff to congressional committees and Members of Congress. CRS staffers assist at the various stages of the legislative process — from bill drafting, through committee hearings and floor debate, to the oversight of enacted laws and various agency activities.

The BPA report is authored by Linda-Jo Schierow, Resources, Science, and Industry Division; and Sara A. Lister, Domestic Social Policy Division, and comes in the immediate wake of legislation proposed in April of 2008, S. 2928, which would prohibit use of BPA in some products intended for use by children. The report notes that the levels of potential exposure to the chemical from plastics is low, although the potential health effects from such exposures is deemed controversial.

In another BPA development, officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission both told the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee on consumer affairs last week that bisphenol-A did not appear to pose sufficient risks that the product should be banned. Although review is ongoing, at this time those agencies have no reason to recommend that consumers stop using products containing BPA. The FDA's associate commissioner for science said that a large body of evidence indicates that currently marketed products containing BPA, such as baby bottles and food containers, are safe and that exposure levels to BPA from these products are well below those that may cause health effects.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told the subcommittee about the bill he introduced last month to ban BPA from all products for children up to seven years old. But the CPSC official said Congress should be careful not to ban the use of polycarbonate plastic for protective items such as pacifier shields, helmets, goggles and shin guards prematurely. Such products prevent children from receiving serious injuries, and this beneficial use of polycarbonate should be balanced before acting to ban bisphenol-A from children's products. Such a ban could result in less effective protection to children from head, eye or bodily injury, and less net safety.



 

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Sean P. Wajert of Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP