COLUMBUS - 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 the firms knew that a chemical known as bisphenol A was associated with health problems but didn't disclose the risk. It cites scientific studies that conclude BPA, as the chemical is also known, seeps from bottles and sippy-cups into liquid.
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 [bisphenol A]," he said.
The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, names five companies: Vandalia, Ohio-based Evenflo Co., Illinois-based Avent America Inc., Missouri-based Handicraft Co., Connecticut-based Playtex Products Inc., and Swiss company Gerber Novartis.
The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount of damages.
The U.S. government's National Toxicology Program said in April that there is "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 "cannot be dismissed."
That finding prompted Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, to pledge BPA-free bottles by early next year.
Toys "R" Us also pledged to purge its shelves of BPA-containing bottles by year's end.
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