By John Christoffersen
Thursday, May 29, 2008
NEW HAVEN, Conn., May 28 -- An Arkansas woman filed a federal lawsuit accusing a Connecticut company of making plastic baby bottles with a dangerous chemical linked to serious health problems.
The lawsuit by Ashley Campbell against Playtex Products of Westport is the latest challenge involving the industrial chemical bisphenol A. The lawsuit seeks nationwide class-action status to represent what it says are thousands of people who bought plastic bottles containing the chemical from Playtex or other companies.
Canada said last month that the chemical, found in hard plastic water bottles, DVDs, CDs and hundreds of other common items, was potentially harmful and may ban its use in baby bottles. Some parents are turning to glass bottles because of the concerns over bisphenol A.
The U.S. government's National Toxicology Program said last month that there was "some concern" about BPA from experiments on rats that linked the chemical to changes in behavior and the brain, early puberty, and possibly precancerous changes in the prostate and breast. While such animal studies only provide "limited evidence" of risk, the draft report said a possible effect on humans could not be dismissed.
With more than 6 million pounds produced in the United States each year, bisphenol A is found in dental sealants, baby bottles, the liners of food cans, CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses and hundreds of household goods.
Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has said its baby bottles would be BPA-free early next year.
Jacqueline Burwitz, a spokeswoman for Playtex, said the company did not comment on pending lawsuits. She cited a general statement by the company about BPA that says U.S. and worldwide regulatory bodies continue to deem the ingredient safe. The company is part of Energizer Holdings, based in St. Louis.
Citing "consumer confusion," Playtex said it offered a free sample of a bottle system that uses disposable liners that are BPA-free and planned to convert the balance of its product line to BPA-free materials by the end of the year.
The chemicals industry maintains that polycarbonate bottles contain little BPA and leach traces considered too low to harm humans. The industry cites multiple studies in the United States, Europe and Japan.
But the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in New Haven, contends that hundreds of studies and papers have repeatedly shown that BPA can be toxic even at extremely low doses.