Bisphenol A and health
More and more evidence shows that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is harmful to children’s health. Yet manufacturers still use BPA in products such as baby bottles and infant-formula cans.
What is Bisphenol A (BPA)?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a synthetic chemical that behaves like estrogen and is linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems.
BPA is used to make clear, rigid plastic called polycarbonate. Baby bottles, sippy cups, sports water bottles, pitchers and drinking cups have often been made with BPA.
BPA is also a component of most food-can linings, including canned infant formula.
BPA has been shown to leach into the food and liquids from these containers, and it ends up in our bodies.
Why be concerned about BPA in food & drink?
Most Americans are exposed to BPA from food & drink. The chemical is detectable in 93% of Americans tested, and food is thought to be the primary source of exposure.
BPA can disrupt hormonal systems. Tiny amounts of BPA can mimic estrogen in the body, which alters normal hormonal function. This increases the risk of breast cancer, early puberty, and low sperm count. See more on links between BPA exposure and fertility problems.
BPA is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and liver problems
People with higher levels of BPA had higher rates of these chronic diseases, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.
BPA can affect a child's development and set them up for illness later in life. Exposure to BPA begins even before birth, disrupting hormones in the developing child. This disruption is linked to behavioral disorders and birth anomalies in children, and sets the stage for prostate and breast cancer later in life.
Infants are especially vulnerable. When a pregnant women is exposed, BPA can cross the placenta to affect an infant's development. Even after birth, an infant's body is less able to detoxify from BPA than an adult body. Exposure to BPA at critical windows of development, and in greater concentration pound-for-pound, can affect the growing brain and other organ systems.
What's being done to protect people from BPA?
BPA use has been restricted in some countries. Canada, the European Union, China, France, Denmark and the United Arab Emirates have acknowledged the risks of BPA exposure from children's food and drink containers and taken action to eliminate it.
Eleven states have passed restrictions on BPA. California became the 11th state, joining Maine, New York, Vermont, Maryland, Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington. All have all taken action to ban BPA from baby bottles. Some of these states take further action to restrict BPA from sports bottles and formula cans.
U.S. agencies and officials urge caution. The U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP) has expressed “some concern” that BPA exposure in fetuses, infants, and children may increase the risk for neurodevelopmental harm and prostate cancer. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) aligned itself with that finding, and pledged to work with industry ti encourage alternatives. FDA noted that the regulatory framework that approved the use of BPA 40 years ago makes it difficult to change regulation. Health and Human Services recommends ways for parents to reduce infant exposure to the chemical.
Some retailers and manufacturers are voluntarily phasing out BPA. Wal-Mart, Toys R Us, Target, and Sears are just a few of the national chains that are phasing out baby bottles containing BPA. The six largest baby bottle manufacturers are phasing out BPA from their products. Chemical maker Sunoco pledged not to sell BPA for use in food and water containers intended for children. It is now possible to buy BPA-free infant formula, baby bottles and even some canned food.
What more can be done?
Legislation: Legislation can be passed to ensure that food and drink containers are not made with BPA. Such legislation would ensure that all children are protected from exposure to BPA, regardless of family income or access to information. In Oregon, despite support from the Governor and the majority of lawmakers, legislature failed to pass a ban in 2011. Learn more about the 2011 legislative session.
Information: There is no sure-fire way to tell if a plastic container or a metal can lining may leach BPA into food and drink. BPA-Free labeling is voluntary. An independent, verifiable labeling standard would be one way to give consumers the information they need (if they already know about the risks of BPA). Learn more about how to avoid BPA.
Alternatives: Many practical, affordable alternatives to BPA-containing plastic are already on the market. Alternative can linings are also being used for some applications, and other food processors have turned to BPA-Free packaging solutions such as cartons and pouches instead of cans. Learn more about BPA-Free alternative packaging.
Chemical regulation reform: Once BPA is out of our food packaging, we need to ensure that replacement alternatives are safe. We also need to ensure that, in the future, chemicals are thoroughly tested and proven safe before the public is exposed to them. This will take a change in the way we regulate toxic chemicals in both state and federal agencies.
What you can do
- Tell Oregon's Multnomah County before October 27, 2011 that you support a ban on BPA.
- 'Like' our BPA-Free Oregon Facebook page and stay tuned for breaking news.
- Sign up for our Healthy Kids Network for tips as well as updates about actions you can take to advocate for a toxic-free environment.
- Read more about what you can do in Multnomah County.