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Baby and beverage bottles made of plastic with the chemical bisphenol A aren't hazardous to your health, a top United States Food and Drug Administration official said yesterday, in a reassuring message for consumers and parents.

The FDA's opinion is not one of consensus, however. John Bucher, associate director of the National Toxicology Program, told Congress that BPA might indeed alter the path of human development. Evidently though the FDA feels that remains to be proven.

A study in April by the National Toxicology Program, which is a study group at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, warned that exposure to BPA could cause early puberty, possible nervous system damage, and breast and prostate cancers. BPA imitates estrogen, the study explained, and its ingestion - through leaching into the drink - can have undesirable side effects. Moreover, PBA is also used in other baby products, such as pacifiers.

Following the study, Canada banned the use of BPA in baby bottles. U.S. legislators have also proposed a law that would prohibit the use of BPA in products for children.

But Norris Alderson, Associate Commissioner for Science at the FDA, seems to feel that panic is unwarranted. Based on two studies, the FDA decided that current exposure levels in both adults and children is safe.

At the least, the FDA suggested that the evidence of health hazard is not conclusive enough to warrant a U.S. ban on the use of bisphenol A, which has the quality of making the plastic more resilient.