A Primer on a Chemical Causing Concern

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bisphenol A is a manmade chemical used to make many hard plastic products: reusable food containers, DVDs, helmets and goggles. It's also in the protective linings in food cans and dental sealants.

The chemical, known as BPA, also has been used to make polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, the most common type, for about 30 years.

The plastics industry and the Food and Drug Administration say the safety of BPA is well established. Critics believe it may be harmful and want it banned from food containers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it found BPA in nearly 93 percent of Americans it tested. The agency, noting that animal tests have shown BPA to have hormone-like effects on the reproductive system, said it is not known whether the results could occur in people. The agency said more research is needed.

The federal National Toxicology Program is also looking into BPA and expects to announce its conclusions later this month.

An independent panel it appointed has expressed "some concern" - the midpoint on a five point scale - that exposure to BPA causes neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children. The panel had "negligible concerns" that the chemical could cause adverse reproductive effects in the general adult population.

Steven Hentges, executive director of the Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group of the American Chemistry Council, says after products are made, only a trace amount of BPA remains. Studies show, he said, that it is impossible to be exposed to harmful amounts of the chemical through a consumer product.

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