OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- A California regulatory board voted Wednesday against placing Bisphenol A, a chemical used to manufacture plastic baby bottles and toys, on the state's list of chemicals that are believed to cause reproductive harm.
The panel, comprised of seven physicians, unanimously decided that the chemical known as BPA should not be covered under Proposition 65, a voter-approved measure used by regulators to identify substances that can cause birth defects, developmental or reproductive harm.
Board members voiced concerns over the growing scientific research showing BPA's effect on fetal health in animals, but said none of the studies they reviewed offered clear evidence of the chemical's toll on human health.
BPA is commonly used to harden plastic or in an epoxy sprayed on metal food containers that is used to prevent corrosion.
Experts disagree about whether it is harmful to humans and few studies on human subjects have been conducted. Studies on the general population have found that 92.6 percent of people have detectable levels of BPA, according to the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Dozens of mothers, environmental advocates and scientists appeared at the meeting, providing hours of testimony urging the panel to list BPA so that warning labels would be added to foods. They said they were just seeking more information so they could make better decisions when shopping for their families.
Susan Forsyth, 43, a labor and delivery nurse in Hayward, Calif., said that she felt guilty after learning that the bottles she once used to feed her daughter contained BPA.
"I am terribly disappointed," she said after the vote. "I think the science is clear that BPA is a developmental toxin."
Dr. Carl Keen, a member of the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee, the body that voted Wednesday, urged people in attendance to understand that the panel's decision would not be the last word on BPA.
Keen said the board turned down listing secondhand smoke when it first came up for a vote, saying science at that time was unclear as well. Keen said a month after that vote, a new study provided the panel with the evidence it needed to list secondhand smoke under Proposition 65.
The board's decision ran counter to trends in other states. Minnesota and Connecticut have already banned BPA's use in making baby bottles.
Dr. Steven Hentges of the American Chemistry Council agreed with the panel's decision, saying tests on lab rats and mice do not prove BPA hurts humans in the same way.
"To extrapolate any effect from rodents to humans is tenuous," he said.