July 18, 2012 — In response to a request from a plastic industry trade group, yesterday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially banned the use of the chemical BPA (bisphenol A) in baby bottles and sippy cups. Manufacturers had already stopped using BPA in these items, but they requested action from the FDA to help reassure customers. The FDA has not banned the use of BPA in other containers or products.
The FDA continues to assert that BPA is safe, stating that there is “no convincing evidence” that the chemical is a health risk. The FDA published a statement with this position in 2008. By 2010, however, the FDA began expressing concerns about the effects of BPA in children, stating they had “some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children.”
Bisphenol A (BPA) is an industrial chemical that mimics the action of estrogen, a hormone. BPA has been widely-used since the 1950s to harden plastic bottles, line cans (including cans for soda, soup, and infant formula), in storage containers, water pipes, dental sealants/composites, and much more. In most cases, products made with BPA are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7.
BPA can leach into food, but its health effects on an adult are not fully understood. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found detectable levels of BPA in the urine of 93% of 2,517 samples. However, it is possible that the body is capable of removing BPA before it gets to internal organs.
Even so, many parents have expressed concern about young children exposed to BPA, blaming the chemical on everything from early puberty to behavioral issues. The chemical has been found in breast milk, umbilical cord blood, and the blood of pregnant women.
The American Chemistry Council, a trade group that represents the plastics industry, requested that the FDA officially ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. The FDA has denied requests from consumer advocacy groups to ban the ingredient. After years of growing concern about the safety of BPA, the American Chemistry Council sought to improve consumer confidence with an official ban.
The U.S. government is currently conducting a $30 million study intended to better understand the health effects of BPA exposure.
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