Baby bottle chemical levels safe, EU agency says

MILAN (Reuters) - The amount of a controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) found in baby bottles is tiny and cannot harm human health, the European Union’s top food safety body said on Wednesday reacting to recent health concerns.

Earlier this year, a heated debate over BPA safety sparked in the United States and Canada after various studies involving laboratory rodents suggested that even small levels of BPA -- used in products ranging from baby and water bottles to beverage cans -- can be harmful.

A scientific panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has looked into how people metabolize BPA and concluded that tiny amounts of the chemical to which humans are exposed leave body quick enough to cause no harm, EFSA said.

“The conclusions of the panel are that after exposure to BPA the human body rapidly metabolizes and eliminates the substance. This represents an important metabolic difference compared with rats,” EFSA said in a statement.

Responding to worries about babies’ health, EFSA said newborns were able to metabolize and eliminate BPA at doses below 1 milligram per kilogram of body weight per day -- even above the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of 0.05 mg/kg/bw a day.

“Exposure of the human fetus to BPA would be negligible because the mother rapidly metabolizes and eliminates BPA from her body,” said the agency based in Parma in northern Italy.

In its previous BPA risk assessment in 2006, EFSA set a TDI of 0.05 mg/kg/bw based on the no-observed-adverse-effect level of 5 mg/kg body weight/day for effects in rats and included an uncertainty factor of 100.

“In this latest assessment, the panel concluded that this TDI provides a sufficient margin of safety for the protection of the consumer, including fetuses and newborns,” EFSA said.

The agency said the significant differences between humans and rodents in the way they metabolize and eliminate BPA “limits the relevance of low-dose effects of BPA reported in some rodent studies used for human risk assessment.”

EFSA said it would monitor closely scientific findings regarding BPA and any related health effects.

Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova; editing by Michael Roddy