A lot of our coverage of bisphenol A, the endocrine-disrupting chemical present in a host of plastic products, has focused on the FDA’s outdated stance. The agency has insisted that BPA is safe at levels currently found in food and liquid containers, even though its own panel of science advisors has determined that the FDA’s position is flawed. The FDA bases its assessment heavily on two industry-funded studies, while dozens of other studies have found adverse effects at levels of exposure comparable to current levels for US residents.
While FDA has resisted changing its position on BPA, millions of parents have decided that they don’t want to risk their children’s neurological development. When the National Toxicology Program reported last spring that it had “some concern” about BPA’s effects on children and newborns, demand for BPA-free baby bottles soared.
Now, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal announces that the nation’s six major baby-bottle companies have agreed to remove BPA from baby bottles. Blumenthal and the attorneys general of Delaware and New Jersey wrote to the companies in October and urged them to remove the chemical from their products; my guess is that potential California and federal legislation banning BPA children’s products also helped convince the companies it was time to act. In any case, Blumenthal is pleased that these companies will be removing BPA from baby bottles – but he’s not satisfied:
Voluntary BPA bans from baby bottles are good, but not good enough — and must lead to complete prohibition. BPA in baby products can perilously leach into liquid, threatening pernicious and lasting health damage to infants.
There is no excuse for this avoidable and unconscionable threat to continue. I am pleased that all baby bottle makers that I contacted have agreed to abandon BPA in baby bottles, but we must do more to protect our children. I am calling for a complete ban against BPA in baby products to stop this needless and negligent public health threat.
When government moves slowly on pressing public health threats (as it often does), it’s good for companies to go ahead and improve their products’ safety even without being legally required to do so. The danger, though, is that the public and our elected leaders will stop worrying so much about the problem once the worst aspect of it has been addressed, and will feel less motivated to push for a more-complete solution to the problem. Baby bottles may be the single largest source of BPA exposure for infants and young children, but there are plenty of other sources, like the lining of food cans. Pregnant women’s exposure to BPA, via food and liquid containers and other sources, can also affect their fetuses’ development. Getting BPA out of baby bottles is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t solve the problem.