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BPA unlikely to be harmful, federal study shows

New National Toxicology Program data show little effect in rats
Image: Water bottles have been placed in front of partially empty shelves at Ralph's Supermarket in Gurabo
BPA, a chemical found in some plastic bottles and the linings of canned foods, seems relatively harmless in rats, the FDA says.Mariela Santo / NBC News

Bisphenol A, a chemical commonly known as BPA and once widely used in canning and plastics, is unlikely to be harmful to people in the doses usually seen, the Food and Drug Administration said Friday.

The FDA said a draft report on BPA’s effects in rats offers little to worry about.

“Overall, the study found ‘minimal effects’ for the BPA-dosed groups of rodents,” Dr. Stephen Ostroff, an FDA deputy commissioner, said in a statement.

“Our initial review supports our determination that currently authorized uses of BPA continue to be safe for consumers,” he added.

The National Toxicology Program released its draft report Friday and will hold a meeting in April for full discussion. The report covers years of testing BPA in many different groups of rats for two years.

“There were few significant effects of BPA treatment,” the draft report reads.

“The core study was designed to look at the effects of several different doses of BPA evaluating chronic and early life exposure in two different groups of rodents,” Ostroff said.

“The doses ranged from low doses that would be comparable to typical human exposures, to doses that vastly exceed human exposure.”

Very few effects were seen in the rats, with the exception of possible mammary gland tumors in some female rats. More experts will have to look at the findings to see if they are of concern, Ostroff said.

The data is published online and the National Toxicology Program is accepting public comment.

BPA has been broadly criticized for years by environmental groups, who cite studies suggesting that it can interfere with human metabolism, causing a range of health effects including low sperm count and weight gain.

Many food manufacturers have changed their packaging because of consumer concerns. Last year, Campbell Soup Co. removed BPA from many of its canned products.

Other manufacturers, including the makers of baby bottles, have been abandoning BPA, too.

The FDA has maintained for years that the levels of BPA that people may get from food packaging are not harmful.