By Philip Elliott
Thursday, June 19, 2008
COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 18 -- Four Ohio parents have filed a federal lawsuit against makers of baby bottles, claiming the bottles were made from a harmful chemical that sparked congressional hearings and prompted the world's largest retailer to phase out the products.
The complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court alleges that the companies knew that a chemical, bisphenol A -- often abbreviated as BPA, was associated with health problems but didn't disclose the risk. It cites scientific studies that conclude that BPA seeps from bottles and sippy cups into liquid.
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, names five companies: Ohio-based Evenflo, Illinois-based Avent America, Missouri-based Handicraft, Connecticut-based Playtex Products and Swiss company Gerber Novartis.
The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount of damages. Spokespeople for the companies did not comment on the suit.
BPA is a ubiquitous chemical in household goods, including eyeglasses, food cans and CDs and DVDs.
The U.S. government's National Toxicology Program said in April that there is "some concern" about BPA based on 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. Although such animal studies provide only "limited evidence" of risk, the draft report said a possible effect on humans "cannot be dismissed."
That finding prompted Wal-Mart stores to stop selling bottles with BPA by early next year. Toys R Us also pledged to purge its shelves of BPA-containing bottles by year's end.
Seeking to ease public concerns about any health hazards, a federal health official told a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee last week that the level of BPA exposure a person would receive from a plastic bottle is safe. Many of the studies that have reported higher levels were conducted under unrealistic conditions, said Dr. Norris Alderson, the Food and Drug Administration's associate commissioner for science.
"Although our review is ongoing, there's no reason to recommend consumers stop using products" with BPA, he said.