The Food and Drug Administration missed its own November 30 deadline to reassess the safety of the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA), but it needs to regulate BPA's use quickly, says Green Century Capital Management Inc., the investment advisor to the environmentally responsible Green Century Funds.

By missing its own deadline, the FDA fails in its job to protect citizens from exposure to chemicals such as BPA, Green Century says. BPA has been found in the urine of over 90% of Americans tested and has been linked to numerous health problems in humans and animals.

BPA is used in many consumer products, but most famously in the epoxy lining of cans and in polycarbonate plastic for food- and beverage-contact purposes. The chemical mimics estrogen in the body; the Journal of Human Reproduction reported this month that male workers with high exposure to BPA were several times more likely to experience sexual dysfunction.  In addition, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the first-ever study of the chemical conducted on humans in September 2008 confirming previous reports linking BPA to the potential for causing heart disease, diabetes and unusually high levels of particular liver enzymes.

The FDA's failure to produce a decision on BPA's safety signifies the agency's continued inability to recognize the magnitude of existing sound independent scientific research on the chemical and spur a large-scale transition to BPA-free alternatives for food- and beverage-contact purposes, Green Century says. To date, state and local governments and Canada have led by taking action to protect public health by banning or limiting the use of BPA for certain applications.    

"As the manager of environmentally responsible mutual funds, Green Century strongly believes there are potentially significant financial and other risks associated with using harmful chemicals such as BPA," said Emily Stone, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century. "The weight of federal regulation will boost the development of alternatives and provide companies an incentive to invest in the research, development, and deployment of new options.  While we are encouraged that the FDA is using sound, independent science in its reassessment, we are concerned about the FDA's continued failure to provide this imperative for companies to pursue alternatives. Smart companies will move ahead urgently with BPA-free alternatives both to protect the health of their consumers and of their bottom lines."   

Earlier this year, Green Century represented investors, investment advisory companies, foundations, and shareholder advocacy groups with a combined total of approximately $26 billion in assets under management in urging the FDA to re-evaluate the safety of BPA.  As co-authors of the report Seeking Safer Packaging, Green Century joined As You Sow Foundation to evaluate food and beverage companies' use of BPA and any alternatives. Most of the companies surveyed had significant room for improvement in phasing out the use of BPA.  Green Century expects to see progress toward new alternatives now that companies can no longer rely on the agency's claim that BPA is safe.