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EPA to investigate environmental impact of BPA

WASHINGTON - The Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday it will investigate the impact of the chemical bisphenol A on the U.S. water supply and other parts of the environment.

Federal regulators have been ramping up their scrutiny of the controversial plastic-hardener at the behest of scientists and activists who say it can interfere with infant growth and development.

The EPA said in a statement it will begin measuring levels of BPA in drinking and groundwater. More than 1 million pounds of BPA are released into the environment each year, according to the agency.

The EPA will also "look for ways to reduce unnecessary exposures, including assessing substitutes."

BPA is found in canned food linings, water bottles, CDs and hundreds of other household items.

In January the Food and Drug Administration changed its position on the chemical's safety, voicing "some concern" about its potential effects on children and infants. The agency had concluded in 2008 that the trace amounts that leach out of food containers are safe.

"We share FDA's concern about the potential health impacts from BPA," said Steve Owens, an assistant administrator with EPA.

The EPA's action took some prodding. Earlier this month Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged the agency to develop an action plan for BPA. He noted that BPA was left off a list of four chemicals subject to tighter regulation, despite EPA director Lisa Jackson's publicly voicing concern about the chemical.

Dozens of animal studies have linked the chemical to abnormal growths and cancerous tumors, but those results have never been confirmed in humans.

While the FDA gathers more information on BPA, consumer safety advocates have urged the EPA to push ahead with tighter regulations.

The American Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, has argued that BPA is safe. It represents BPA producers, including Dow Chemical and Bayer.

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