Stimulus-funded Researchers Meet to Address BPA Gaps

Researchers who just received funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to study BPA were brought together to meet with scientists from academia and government already working on the health effects of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA).

The meeting is part of an effort to support human and animal research that will help determine if current exposures to BPA in the general population pose a potential health risk. NIEHS is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has the lead in supporting research to study the potential effects that chemicals, such as BPA, may have on human health. President Obama allocated $5 billion in Recovery Act funds to the NIH, with about $14 million going to NIEHS for research on BPA.

"We know that many people are concerned about bisphenol A and we want to support the best science we can to provide the answers," said Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., who serves as director of the NIEHS and the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an interagency program for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Bringing the key BPA researchers together at the onset of new funding will maximize the impact of our expanded research effort."

NIEHS will invest approximately $30 million over two years on BPA-related research. This includes existing grants, the newly awarded Recovery Act grants and supplements, in-house research and NTP projects. The NTP effort is part of a larger five-year commitment to collaborate with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's National Center for Toxicological Research to examine long-term health outcomes resulting from developmental exposures.

BPA is used primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. People, including children, are exposed to BPA in food and beverages when it leaches from the internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and also from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles and baby bottles. In 2008, NTP and NIEHS concluded that there is evidence from animal studies that BPA may be causing adverse effects. But researchers are uncertain about whether the changes seen in the animal studies would result in human health problems. For this reason, NIEHS identified BPA as a priority area.

"We want the new grantees to be able to hit the ground running," said Jerry Heindel, health scientist administrator at the NIEHS who oversees much of the institute's portfolio on BPA. "Having the key players talking to one another as they begin new research efforts will stimulate collaboration, create opportunities to share resources, and encourage researchers to develop reliable and reproducible methods that will allow for a comprehensive assessment of the human health effects of BPA."

The 10 Recovery Act NIH Grand Opportunities grants focusing on BPA research have been awarded to:

  • Scott M. Belcher, University of Cincinnati
  • Kim Harley and Brenda Eskenazi, University of California, Berkeley
  • B. Paige Lawrence, University of Rochester, N.Y.
  • Gail S. Prins, University of Illinois at Chicago; Shuk-Mei Ho, University of Cincinnati; and Kevin P. White, University of Chicago.
  • Beverly Sharon Rubin and Andrew S. Greenberg, Tufts University, Boston
  • Ana Soto, Tufts University, Boston
  • Shanna H. Swan and Bernard Weiss, University of Rochester
  • Frederick vom Saal, University of Missouri, Columbia and William Allen Ricke, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester.
  • Cheryl L. Walker, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; Shuk-Mei Ho, University of Cincinnati; and Michael A. Mancini, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
  • Robin Marjorie Whyatt, Columbia University Health Sciences, New York City

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