An independent panel has suggested that US regulators underestimated health risks from bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical widely used in baby bottles and food containers.
A scientific advisory board impaneled by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review the agency's procedures for assessing the risk from the chemical found that federal regulators used a flawed methodology and failed to heed numerous reports linking the substance to a range of serious ailments, including prostate cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Officials at FDA, which regulates the chemical's use in containers and foodware, acknowledged the criticism.
"We will carefully evaluate the findings of these studies," the agency said.
The panel accused the FDA of ignoring the results of studies done on animals showing that small doses of BPA could provoke changes during development in the brain, prostate glands and at puberty for females.
Some scientist called for banning the chemical altogether.
"The current levels of exposure are not safe," said Sarah Janssen, a reproductive biologist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.
"We should get rid of it in food containers."
BPA is used in the lining of metal and in plastic food container and baby bottles.
A report last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that adults with the highest concentrations of BPA in their urine had nearly triple the odds of cardiovascular disease, compared with those with the least amounts of the compound in their systems.
Toxicologists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also published research about current levels of the chemical found in many food containers, plastic bottles and dental fillings in a study earlier this month.
According to the NIH findings, the chemical could have dangerous effects on the development of the brain and the prostate gland in fetuses and newborn babies.
Nevertheless, in a report as recently as last August, the agency continued to maintain that current levels of the chemical were safe, triggering an outcry from the scientific community and consumer protection groups.