The Senate failed to vote on the passage of a bill that would have resulted in a ban on the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.
And in fact, the ban is no longer even in consideration. According to the Wall Street Journal:
"Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) was the primary backer of a controversial amendment banning the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, which has been linked to some cancers, in baby bottles and sippy cups.
On Wednesday, she withdrew the amendment from consideration."
Feinstein says she'll keep fighting to make the ban a reality.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) amendment to the latest food-safety bill would have banned the use of the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups, required the FDA to finalize their safety assessment of the chemical by December 2012, and allowed states to ban the chemical entirely if they so choose.
Unfortunately, thanks to heavy pressure from the chemical industry, the amendment has been withdrawn from consideration.
U.S. Babies and Children at Risk From BPA
That BPA should be taken out of all products intended for children is a no-brainer.
Of 115 published animal studies, 81 percent found significant effects from even low-level exposure to BPA. This toxic chemical, an endocrine disrupter, first caught researchers' attention after normal mice began to display uncommon genetic abnormalities.
The defects were linked to plastic cages and water bottles that had been cleaned with a harsh detergent, causing BPA to leach out of the plastic.
After determining how much BPA the mice had been exposed to, the researchers realized even an extremely small dose of 20 parts per billion daily, for just five to seven days, was enough to produce effects.
Some of the greatest concern surrounds early-life exposure to BPA, which can lead to chromosomal errors in the developing fetus, triggering spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage. And being exposed to just 0.23 parts per billion of BPA is enough to disrupt the effect of estrogen in a baby's developing brain.
For this reason, women of childbearing age and those who are pregnant, along with infants and children, should be especially diligent at avoiding BPA.
BPA in Baby Bottles Already Banned in Canada, Why Not the U.S.?
BPA in baby bottles has already been banned in Canada and several U.S. states. Other measures are being considered in 30 U.S. states and municipalities -- but at a federal level, the government is treading water and choosing to protect the interests of the chemical industry in favor of public health.
The American Chemistry Council, a lobby group for the chemical industry that issued a statement in early 2010 denying the health hazards of BPA, clearly does not want to see this cash cow bite the dust ... nor be held accountable for health problems related to its use. They will pull out all the stops to keep this chemical in your food packaging, baby bottles, and more for as long as possible.
Despite all the research showing serious health effects at low-level exposure, the U.S. FDA has virtually no power to do anything about it because BPA was classified in 1963 as an indirect food additive and is listed among the 3,000 or so chemicals categorized as GRAS ("generally regarded as safe").
This outdated GRAS designation is what exempts BPA from more careful scrutiny and analysis.
According to the FDA's regulations, a substance granted GRAS status is not subject to FDA review. The Agency explains these limitations via an "update" on its website:
"Current BPA food contact uses were approved under food additive regulations issued more than 40 years ago. This regulatory structure limits the oversight and flexibility of the FDA.
Once a food additive is approved, any manufacturer of food or food packaging may use the food additive in accordance with the regulation. There is no requirement to notify the FDA of that use.
For example, today there exist hundreds of different formulations for BPA-containing epoxy linings, which have varying characteristics. As currently regulated, manufacturers are not required to disclose to FDA the existence or nature of these formulations.
Furthermore, if the FDA were to decide to revoke one or more approved uses, the FDA would need to undertake what could be a lengthy process of rulemaking to accomplish this goal."
Where is BPA Found?
In 2009, more than 6 billion pounds of BPA were made, representing nearly $7 billion in sales. It is one of the world's highest production-volume chemicals and is widely used in the production of:
- Plastic water bottles
- Plastic gallon milk bottles
- Plastic microwavable plates, ovenware, and utensils
- Baby toys, bottles, pacifiers, and sippy cups
- Canned foods and soda cans (most have plastic lining in the cans)
- Tooth sealants
The use of BPA is so pervasive that scientists have found that 95 percent of people tested have dangerous levels of BPA in their bodies.
Again, some of the biggest victims are your children, who may be exposed to the chemical while in utero, and are quite literally "fed" the chemical via plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and toys (which they often put in their mouths).
The cumulative effect of being exposed to minuscule amounts of BPA from cans, bottles, plates and all other sources over the years can eventually spell serious trouble for your health.
One recent study found the chemical can lead to heart disease, diabetes and liver problems in adults, and previous research has linked BPA to:
- Structural damage to your brain
- Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
- Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
- Altered immune function
- Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
- Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
- Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
- Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
- Heart disease
- Liver damage
You Can Take Action, Even if the Federal Government Won't
There has been enough negative press about BPA that the public has been demanding safer, BPA-free alternatives. As a result, as of late summer 2010 BPA bills were pending in five state legislatures, and earlier this year numerous positive steps have been made to get this toxin out of U.S. food containers:
- Vermont banned BPA in baby food, formula and bottles, and will restrict its use in metal food cans starting July 1, 2014
- New York state banned BPA in bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers and drinking straws beginning December 2010
- General Mills announced in April 2010 that it would use BPA-free cans for Muir Glen organic tomatoes starting with the next harvest
Certain manufacturers, including Philips Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow, have also said they will stop making baby bottles that contain BPA, while several major retailers, including CVS, Kmart, Walmart, Toys R Us and Babies R Us are removing BPA-containing products from their stores.
So the good news is that there are plenty of resources available for you to find BPA-free alternatives for your family. Please support the companies that are removing this chemical from their products, and look for BPA-free labels on all baby bottles and children's toys you buy.
You can further reduce your family's exposure to this toxic chemical by following these 11 tips:
- Only use glass baby bottles and dishes for your baby.
- Get rid of your plastic dishes and cups, and replace them with glass alternatives.
- Give your baby natural fabric toys instead of plastic ones, and only BPA-free pacifiers and teethers.
- Store your food and beverages in glass -- NOT plastic -- containers. Glass is the safest and most inert way to store your water and food, and is far better than ANY plastic (even BPA-free varieties).
- IF you choose to use a microwave, don't microwave food in a plastic container.
- Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel travel coffee mugs rather than plastic or Styrofoam coffee cups.
- Avoid using plastic wrap (and never microwave anything covered in it).
- If you opt to use plastic kitchenware, at least get rid of the older, scratched-up varieties, avoid putting them in the dishwasher, and don't wash them with harsh detergents, as these things can cause more BPA to leach into your food.
- Avoid using bottled water; filter your own using a high-quality filter instead.
- Before allowing a dental sealant to be applied to your, or your children's, teeth, ask your dentist to verify that it does not contain BPA.
- Avoid using canned foods (including soda cans) as the linings often contain BPA. If you do eat canned foods, choose only those that come in BPA-free cans.