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NIEHS Awards Recovery Act Funds for BPA Research, Brings Researchers Together

By Robin Mackar
December 2009

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On October 6, researchers who received funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/recovery/index.cfm) to study the health effects of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) gathered in North Carolina to meet with scientists from academia and government already working on the compound. The purpose of the meeting was to launch an integrated research initiative to produce data that will allow for a comprehensive assessment of possible human health effects due to BPA.

Jerry Heindel, Ph.D., the health scientist administrator at NIEHS who oversees much of the Institute's portfolio on BPA said, "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."

BPA is a chemical primarily used to produce polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, which are used to coat the lining of canned foods. Humans are exposed to BPA when the chemical leaches from polycarbonate tableware, canned foods, food storage containers, water bottles and baby bottles. BPA exposure has been linked to a variety of physiological problems in animal studies such as infertility, weight gain, behavioral changes, early onset puberty, prostate and mammary gland cancer, and diabetes.

Director of the NIEHS and National Toxicology Program (NTP), Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., said, "We know that many people are concerned about bisphenol A, and we want to support the best science we can to provide the answers. 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, including 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.

"Without the support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, we would not have been able to expand on this research that is of such concern to so many people," Birnbaum noted. "Through this effort we will be able to provide a better perspective of the potential threat that exposure to bisphenol A poses to public health."

The newly funded two-year animal and human studies will focus on a number of health effects including behavior, obesity, diabetes, reproductive disorders, prostate development, breast and uterine cancer, asthma, cardiovascular diseases and transgenerational or epigenetic effects.

(Robin Mackar is the news director in the NIEHS Office of Communications and Public Liaison and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)

Awardees

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
  • 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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