A reporter live blogs the FDA BPA meeting

Blogging can vary in spontaneity. Some bloggers spend a lot of effort honing individual posts, while some do a lot of "one offs" in response to rapidly changing events. A limiting form of the latter is "live blogging," essentially reporting in real time during a meeting, demonstration or particular event. In this sense blogging isn't very different than print journalism. There are stories that are quickies, just reporting some facts or acting as a stenographer for the government, a political campaign or commercial press release. Then there are the more in-depth analytical and investigative pieces. But until recently there hasn't been anything similar to live blogging in the print world, although this is essentially what many local and national news reporters do on TV. But now we are seeing traditional print media reporters engaging in live blogging, the most recent example coming from the Washington Post's Annys Shin. The event? FDA's Science Board is meeting to discuss the agency's draft risk assessment on bisphenol-A (BPA), the controversial plastic hardener we have discussed often here (see here, here, here, here, here, here):

Well, I'm here at the Hilton in Gaithersburg today at a meeting of the Food and Drug Administration's Science Board. The Science Board advises the FDA commissioner on scientific and technical matters and I'm sure these meetings are not usually a big media draw.


The elephant in the room is the issue of industry influence. Environmental and public health advocates say the FDA relied too heavily on industry-funded studies that concluded BPA was not harmful. And the documentation FDA posted on its site that lays out the information it relied on shows that some of the literature reviews were prepared by consulting firms that also work for industry, including BPA makers.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) have been investigating the issue of industry influence on FDA's handling of BPA. (Annys Shin, morning session, Wa Po)

Shin returned in the afternoon to see whether the subcommittee report critical of the FDA draft risk assessment would be accepted as is, rejected, or accepted with editorial comment. Here's what happened, live blogged without analysis by Annys Shin:

So the report has been presented and a bevy of speakers--some from industry and some from consumer groups--have spoken. And now the board is sorting out what it is going to vote on.

The options on the table include accepting the report wholesale or with editorial comments.

Larry Sasich, the consumer representative on the board, proposed accepting the report and telling the FDA to look into immediately limiting infants' exposure to BPA.

"The point of this whole process is, 'do we have a chemical out there that is potentially harmful to infants and small children?'" he said. "It would be nice to sit here in isolation and look at the data...but [the public] expects us to come up with some solutions to this problem either to say there's no problem at all, this is perfectly safe, no question at all, but if there is...to take some steps to limit exposure to this particular product until we get better data, until we can answer with confidence safety or lack of safety."

This notion was summarily shot down by the other board members as "not appropriate." But they'll vote on the suggestion separately.

Final vote on accepting the report and sending it on to the FDA for action: five said yes.

Report accepted. (Annys Shin, afternoon session live blogging, WaPo)

Thus it sounds as if the FDA's Science Board has accepted, in toto, the fairly harsh critique which greeted the agency's draft risk assessment after its recent presentation. That assessment, rejected the judgment of the NIH's National Toxicology Program which raised serious concerns about the the restricted and industry dominated body of evidence FDA considered, has now been thoroughly discredited by an outside panel of scientific experts.

So it looks like it's back to the drawing boards for the FDA regarding BPA. That leaves BPA still unregulated in the US (its use for children's products is now banned in Canada) and awaiting the next administration.

Science delayed means babies betrayed.

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