June 7, 2009
As an FDA panel prepares to issue a ruling on whether the controversial chemical bisphenol A (BPA) should be considered safe, press reports have revealed that the research center headed by the panel’s chair recently received a massive donation from a vocal BPA supporter and former medical device manufacturer.
In July, the University of Michigan’s Risk Science Center, headed by FDA panel chair Martin Philbert, received a $5 million donation from anti-regulation activist Charles Gelman. This donation amounted to almost 50 times the center’s annual budget, but was never reported to the FDA.
Gelman vocally supports organizations that are critical of research into the risks of chemicals, global warming and other environmental hazards. He also has a long history of opposing government regulation of pollutants.
Gelman told reporters that he considers BPA to be perfectly safe, and that he made his perspective clear to Philbert on multiple occasions.
“He knows where I stand,” he said.
The FDA’s associate commissioner for science, Norris Alderson, responded to the revelation by saying that since Gelman’s salary was not paid from Gelman’s donation, the agency does not regard it as a conflict of interest.
BPA is a widely used industrial chemical that helps make plastics hard and translucent. It has found uses in polycarbonate plastic water and baby bottles, as part of the resins that line cans of food, and in non-food products such as compact discs.
Laboratory studies have implicated the chemical as a hormone mimic and endocrine disruptor, however, with the potential to cause reproductive, developmental and neurological problems, particularly in infants and children. Concerns over the chemical have been heightened by findings that it can leach from plastics and resins into food and beverages, especially when heated. Scientists have found traces of the chemical in the bodies of 90 percent of people over the age of six.
Sources for this story include: www.washingtonpost.com.