As the country awaits word from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) on the safety of the controversial industrial chemical bisphenol A - BPA - the head of a key federal agency head warns that ingesting BPA be avoided, especially by women who are pregnant, infants, and children.

"There are plenty of reasonable alternatives," said Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the National Toxicology Program, in an interview with the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel (JSOnline). Birnbaum noted that she is not a physician, but that her involvement with BPA studies has her concerned about its adverse effects, said JSOnline. Birnbaum said consumers should be "absolutely" worried about BPA's effects quoted JSOnline.

Last week, Birnbaum gave testimony before a Senate panel, comparing the chemical to "lead, mercury, and polychlorinated biphenyls," said JSOnline. Those chemicals have been found to be extremely dangerous to human health at low doses. Meanwhile, the NIEHS will be investing $30 million over two years to research the toxin and its effects on what Birnbaum described as "all stages of development," said JSOnline.

Developed in the 1930s, the estrogenic mimicker - originally developed as a replacement for the hormone, said JSOnline - appears to wreak havoc on the body's' endocrine system. Today, in urine tests, BPA is found in the overwhelming majority of Americans, more than 93 percent and was recently found to be present in the vast majority of newborns.

BPA has been connected to increased risks of brain, reproductive, cardiac, and immune system diseases and disorders; problems with liver function testing; interruptions in chemotherapy treatment; and links with serious health problems.

Studies have overwhelmingly found BPA to have negative effects at doses lower than current FDA standards; retention in the body longer than was previously believed; leeching into liquids being held in containers regardless of the containers' temperature; and longer lasting damage, which may be passed to future generations. Recent reports link high levels of exposure to BPA to erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems in males.

The estrogenic, industrial chemical, a polycarbonate plastic byproduct, is not only worrisome because of its connection to a wide variety of adverse health events, but also because of the chemical's overwhelming and growing ubiquity. BPA can be found in baby bottles; sippy cups; water bottles; aluminum can linings; eyeglasses; cars; DVD and CD cases; some dental sealants; appliances; windshields; common paper receipts; and the plastic lining of frozen food dinners, to name some. On recyclable bottles, BPA, as a component, can be verified if the item contains recycling number 7.

Meanwhile, the FDA has long promised an announcement of its ruling on BPA's safety, yet recently missed its self-imposed announcement date. Many believe the agency will soon announce a request for additional study time.

Industry has maintained that scientists and consumer advocates exaggerate BPA's adverse effects, continually citing two industry studies; however, at last count, over 900 peer-reviewed studies found links between these effects and BPA. The FDA had maintained BPA was safe, basing its finding on these two studies; however, noted JSOnline, the agency's science board recommended it had not looked at enough of the studies and began its review, setting the now-passed November 30th deadline.