A new mom walking down the bottle aisle is confronted with an overwhelming array of choices. Among the vented bottles and the drop-in liners is a new category, BPA-free. Despite the fact that Bisphenol A (BPA) is an extremely ubiquitous compound, with over 6 billion pounds manufactured in the US annually, most non-mothers have probably never thought much of it. BPA is not only in baby bottles but also in many plastic bottles, tupperware and metal cans with plastic liners
In the last few years there have been hundreds of studies done on BPA but the question still remains, "Is it safe?" Unfortunately, it depends on whom you ask. And, if you're a jaded consumer you may start to wonder if a study's conclusion truly depends upon is who is funding the study.
The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, released a report in August declaring BPA to be safe at current levels found in plastic baby bottles and canned foods. This brought an array of criticism especially since the FDA relied solely on industry-funded research and dismissed over a hundred independent studies that suggested the contrary to be true. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FDA then asked a panel of scientific experts to form a subcommittee and review its August report. The panel concluded that it disagreed with the FDA's decision to dismiss many of the other studies on BPA. The subcommittee stated that the FDA's conclusions were not supported by the available data and science and that the dismissed studies "raise additional and unsettling concern."
In September, The National Toxicology Program (NTP) released a report stating that; "The NTP has some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A." In their 1-5 scale of concern, some concern is equal to a level 3. This all comes on the heels of Canada's April ban on BPA in baby bottles.
Members of Congress are now looking into the FDA's original statement and what influence the plastic industry had on the research. Rep. Edward Markey has introduced legislation to ban BPA in food and beverage packaging while Sen. Charles Schumer has said he will file a bill to ban BPA from baby products, dental sealants and any bottle containing food or drink. In addition, according to this week's USA Today, "Attorney generals from Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware have asked 11 companies to stop using BPA in baby bottles and formula cans. In response to Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak's investigation (into the FDA), major baby formula manufacturers have said they are working to take BPA out of the linings of their liquid formula cans."
So what does this mean to you?
BPA is an estrogen-like chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin. A CDC study in 2003-2004, of people six years and older, found that 93% of those surveyed had detectable levels of BPA in their urine. The primary exposure for most people is through the diet, both in plastic containers and metal containers coated with a plastic liner to reduce rust. The NTP report states "Bisphenol A can leach into food from the protective internal epoxy resin coatings of canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles. The degree to which BPA leaches from polycarbonate bottles into liquid may depend more on the temperature of the liquid or bottle, than the age of the container. BPA can also be found in breast milk."
The NTP lists the following suggestions to reduce BPA exposure:
1. Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from over use at high temperatures. (In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP, recommends not boiling, microwaving, or putting polycarbonate bottles through the dishwasher as heat increases the leaching of BPA.)
2. When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
3. Use baby bottles that are BPA free. (BPA free plastics and glass bottles are available. There are also BPA free nipples.)
4. Reduce your use of canned foods.
5. Identify polycarbonate containers that contain BPA. These containers usually have a number 7 in the recycle triangle on the bottom of the container.
6. Opt for BPA-free toys.