The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups years after the manufacturers voluntarily stopped using the chemical in the product.
In a seemingly contradictory move, the plastics industry, not consumer advocacy groups, made the request for the ban. In 2011, the American Chemistry Council asked for the ban to reassure consumers that they had nothing to fear from plastic baby products, reports National Public Radio.
Confusion about whether BPA was in the products “had become an unnecessary distraction to consumers, legislators, and state regulators,” council spokesman Steven Hentges says in a statement. “FDA action on this request now provides certainty.”
A growing amount of research suggests that exposure to this chemical could contribute to cancer, sexual dysfunction, behavioral problems in children, and heart disease. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has long argued that BPA should be removed from all food packaging because the chemical can act like the hormone, estrogen, in the body. But the industry and the federal government have long maintained that BPA is safe in low doses, reports The Washington Post. The agency resisted efforts to have the chemical banned because it could not find any evidence that it causes harm in people.
The FDA did not address the human health issue in this case because the plastics industry based its request solely on a provision that allows anyone to petition for changes to food additive rules if that person can demonstrate that a particular use of the additive has been abandoned.
The NRDC criticized the FDA’s decision to ban BPA from sippy cups and baby bottles because the action did not go far enough. “This half-hearted action […] is inadequate,” says Senior Science Sarah Janssen in a statement. “FDA continues to dodge the bigger questions of BPA’s safety.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has added to the narrative, as he used the provision to petition for a ban on BPA in a variety of food packages. On Tuesday, July 17, the FDA started collecting public comment on his request, which specifically called for a BPA ban in infant formula packaging.
BPA is used to make plastics shatter-proof. It’s also used in the epoxy linings of metal cans to keep food fresh.
Source: “FDA Bans Chemical BPA From Sippy Cups And Baby Bottles,” NPR, 7/17/12
Source: “BPA banned from baby bottles, sippy cups,” The Washington Post, 7/17/12
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.