French watchdog ups scrutiny of chemical BPA

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A French health watchdog called Tuesday for tighter vigilance of an industrial chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), which has been fingered as potentially harmful for foetuses and infants.

BPA is used in "polycarbonate" types of hard plastic bottles and as a protective lining in food and beverage cans.

It became a concern following evidence in lab animals of a toxic effect on the brain and nervous system.

Several countries have introduced voluntary measures or laws to stop the manufacture of baby bottles with BPA and published guidelines on safer use of these containers. In June 2010, the French parliament banned BPA-containing baby bottles.

The Agence for Food Health Safety (Anses) -- the French equivalent of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) -- on Tuesday called for tougher preventative measures.

In a report summarising studies into BPA, it said even "low doses" of the chemical had had a "confirmed" effect on lab animals and a "suspected" effect on humans.

Preventing exposure to BPA among infants, pregnant or nursing women was a "priority goal," Anses said.

It said it would hand its investigation to the EU-wide European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for consideration.

In September 2010, EFSA said that BPA was safe and there was no need to overhaul European limits of daily exposure, which are 0.05 milligrams per kilo of body weight. They were set in 2006.

Some studies have found a link between exposure to BPA and coronary heart disease and reproductive disorders.

But, EFSA said, the design of these studies made it impossible to conclude that BPA caused these problems.

© 2011 AFP

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