Washington, DC--A chemical used to make baby bottles and other shatterproof plastic containers could be linked to a range of hormonal problems, a preliminary government report has found.
The federal National Toxicology Program said Tuesday that experiments on rats found precancerous prostate tumors, urinary system problems and early puberty when the animals were fed or injected with low doses of the plastics chemical bisphenol-A.
While such animal studies only provide "limited evidence" of bisphenol's developmental risks, the group's draft report stresses the possible effects on humans "cannot be dismissed." The group is made up of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration and the Institutes of Health.
Most Americans are exposed to trace amounts of bisphenol, which leaches out of water bottles and other items made with it.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents manufacturers, said the report "affirms that there are no serious or high level concerns for adverse effects of bisphenol A on human reproduction and development." The group said it supports additional research to determine whether affects of the chemical when used in animals "are of any significance to human health."
The toxicology group's findings echo those of researchers assembled by the National Institutes of Health, who last August called for more research on bisphenol in humans.
The Food and Drug Administration in November said there is "no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict its use." The agency on Tuesday did not immediately have any comment about the new report.
But growing concern about the chemical has pushed many consumers toward glass alternatives, and triggered investigations by state and federal lawmakers.
Rep. John Dingell, DMich., called on FDA Tuesday to reconsider the safety of bisphenol, saying the toxicology report's findings "fly in the face of the FDA's determination."
Dingell issued letters to seven companies that make baby formulations earlier this year, questioning whether they use bisphenol in the lining of their cans and bottles.
The companies included Hain Celestial Group, Nestle USA and Abbott Laboratories.
A spokeswoman for the International Formula Council, which represents baby food makers, said Tuesday "the overwhelming scientific evidence supports the safety" of bisphenol, adding that no international governments have restricted or banned its use.
The National Toxicology Program will take public comments on its initial report through May. A final version will be issued this summer.
Earlier this month state lawmakers in New Jersey passed a bill that would ban the sale of all products containing bisphenol.
Canada's health agency is also examining the health risks of bisphenol is expected to issue its findings in coming days.