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FDA Issues Warning About BPA Exposure

The Food and Drug Administration is encouraging families to limit their children's exposure to a chemical found in thousands of household products.

CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace reports that, for years, concerned mothers, environmental groups and some scientists have been warning that Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, is unsafe, and can lead to cancers, diabetes and other diseases.

Now, in a shift in the agency's position, the FDA is saying the chemical is of "some concern." However, as CBS News found out, limiting your exposure to it isn't easy.

The FDA announced, on the basis of new studies that can test for "subtle effects" that, while BPA is still considered safe, it now has "some concern" about the potential effects of the chemical - especially on the "brain behavior and prostate glands in fetuses, infants and young children."

The American Chemistry Council, a product advocacy group, says BPA is safe.

The council's Lisa Harrison told CBS News, "What's important to remember is the FDA indicated that the BPA has not been proven harmful to children or adults. And that if they believed it was unsafe, they would've issued stronger regulations."

In a non-scientific "Early Show" experiment, Wallace ate a sandwich made from canned tuna, which consumer groups have found to contain BPA. Shortly afterwards, she had her blood drawn. For the next two days, Wallace tried to live a BPA-free life, during which she tried to avoid all foods in cans or plastic containers.

Then she had her blood drawn again. Her serum samples were shipped to the lab of University of Missouri professor Fred Vom Saal.

Vom Saal told Wallace, "The first set of blood that you gave us had high levels of Bisphenol A in it. It's over five times higher than what we find on average in women in the United States."

However, after her BPA-free diet, Vom Saal said her levels were much lower than average.

Wallace asked, "How convinced are you that elevated levels of BPA in people's bodies can lead to cancers, heart disease, obesity and early puberty?"

He replied, "I and other colleagues of mine at an NIH (National Institutes of Health) meeting said, with a very high level of confidence, we think Bisphenol A is a threat to human health."

Wallace added on "The Early Show" it's hard to avoid BPA because, currently, manufacturers aren't required to label products containing the chemical.

However, you can reduce your BPA intake, Wallace said, by limiting your use of canned food. Also, baby bottle manufacturers only make bottles that are BPA-free. In addition, if plastic containers have the number three or seven on the bottom, it means it does contain BPA. Some recycled pizza boxes, also, contain BPA.

But Wallace said you can still enjoy your pizza: "Everything is relative if eaten in moderation."

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