The Checkout

New Questions for Chairman of FDA Panel on BPA

Annys Shin

Last week, Martin Philbert, who chairs a Food and Drug Administration panel on the chemical bisphenol-A, defended himself in an editorial in a Milwaukee newspaper against charges that he has been influenced by millions of dollars in donations to his research center by BPA makers.

But his defense has only attracted more scrutiny from consumer groups and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who heads a House panel that oversees FDA funding. In a letter sent to FDA today, DeLauro asked the FDA to delay the release later this week of its report on the safety of BPA, which is used to make plastic and can be found in baby bottles, breast implants, and the lining of cans.

In September, FDA released a draft of the report that concluded BPA is safe. The panel's findings were in line with studies funded by the chemical industry, but not ones funded by the federal government, which have found it may harm brain function.

Philbert was already taking heat over revelations that Charles Gelman, a retired businessman who believes BPA is safe, gave $5 million to the University of Michigan Risk Science Center, which Philbert founded and co-directs. Gelman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he expressed his views about BPA to Philbert. Philbert denies talking to Gelman about BPA or being influenced by Gelman's views.

On Oct. 20, Philbert tried to defend himself in the pages of the Journal Sentinel with an editorial. In it, he mentioned that his center had also received $15 million from Dow Chemical to study dioxin as an example of how big dollar donations don't influence the center's work.

Woops.

Dow is also a major maker of BPA. Even though the company gave his center money to research a different subject, DeLauro sees it as a conflict of interest and is urging the agency to cancel the report's release and to start over.

Stay tuned.

By Annys Shin |  October 28, 2008; 7:30 AM ET Annys Shin
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Comments

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The quality of what the FDA does or doesn't do is not a factor in determining whether a product is or is not dangerous.

There is no scientific reason to suppose that baby bottles made with bisphenol are a health hazard to anyone. Any possible health effect BPA exposure causes must be small, and possibly nonexistent. Replacing it is certainly not urgent, and may not even be prudent, since it must be replaced with SOMETHING ELSE which might have health impacts of its own.

This is a wholly political issue, and shame on the news media for giving it disproportionate attention. Can't you do your jobs without suggesting at least once a day that the world is about to end?

Posted by: nospam778 | October 28, 2008 11:22 PM

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