I’m the kind of person that reads labels and researches everything. In fact, as I write this I am realizing that I almost never go anywhere, do anything, eat anywhere or buy anything without looking it up online, reading about it and comparing it to other choices. My friends will most certainly agree, as my conversations are often peppered with comments like, “I’ve read about that restaurant or toy, book, movie, random and rarely used kitchen item, etc.” I don’t know how I survived my first twenty plus years of life without the Internet. Clearly, I am a person who needs lots of information. I am a Libra through and through, always seeking balance before making a decision. I like to be informed, darn it! So, that said, you can imagine all of the research that went into planning for and buying the massive quantities of “necessary” baby equipment for the arrival of Darling 1. If you have kids, you know what I mean.
However, in spite all of my research, I was unaware of BPA, or Bisphenol A, lurking in the plastic baby bottles I bought. At the time, there was virtually no mainstream information on the potential hazards of using products made from plastic containing BPA, which was then in most baby bottles, sippy cups and formula cans, as well as other food and beverage containers. As soon as I discovered the potential hazards of this chemical, I replaced all of Darling 1’s BPA-laden bottles with BPA-free cups. Before the arrival of Darling 2, I began once again researching baby equipment for new items that we would surely need. At this time, (Aug./Sept. 2008), the shelves of Target and Babies R Us were not yet stocked with many BPA-free options, and I spent many hours on the Internet trying to find just the right BPA-free bottle for Darling 2. But, it is with great delight that I report that the tide is beginning to turn, and it is now quite easy to find BPA-free containers at retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, REI and Babies R Us. Available options include products from Nalgene, Camelbak, Nuby and Evenflo — to name some of our faves.
So, what is the big deal about BPA? Here’s what I learned from my research: BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, birth defects, infertility in men, early puberty in girls, diabetes and obesity. In most cases, people are exposed to BPA through the leaching of BPA from food and beverage containers. Infants and children are most at risk because their small bodies are still developing. The ill effects from BPA usually appear much later in life. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics, the hard plastic used to make products like baby bottles and sports bottles, not the soft, squeezable plastics such as those used to make mayo or mustard containers. It is also found in the protective lining on the inside of metal-based food and beverage cans. Plastic containers with BPA typically have the number 7 with a PC beside it in the center of the recycling symbol on the bottom of the containers. But if the container does not have the recycling symbol, don’t assume it is free from BPA. Since the 1930s, there have been questions and concerns about whether BPA in food and beverage containers was harmful to people, but it was not until 2008 that studies showing BPA leaches out of baby bottles into heated liquids began to be reported in the mainstream press. An investigation by Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org), a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., found that BPA was used to line nearly all infant formula cans. BPA levels found in liquid formula packaged in metal cans was far higher than those that leach from bottles under normal use. Canadian tests show no BPA leaching into powdered formula.
Due to much pressure, the marketplace has now begun to regulate itself. In 2009, all major formula brand manufacturers, including store brands, pledged to eliminate all BPA from their packaging. In that same year, some major retailers like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us announced that they would quickly phase out baby bottles containing BPA. At the same time, six baby bottle manufacturers decided to become BPA-free. In May of 2009, Sunoco became the first chemical manufacturer to acknowledge BPA’s health concerns and announced that it would sell BPA only to companies that promise not to use it to make plastics for children’s food and beverage containers.
In 2009, over twenty states introduced bills to ban BPA from children’s food and beverage containers, varying in scope. All but two of those bills failed. Minnesota became the first state to ban BPA in children’s containers intended for children 3 and under. (Way to be progressive, Minnesota!) The law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2010. Connecticut passed similar legislation that will go into effect Oct. 1, 2011. The City of Chicago and three counties in New York also passed BPA bans in 2009. In March of 2010, the Washington State House passed The Safe Baby Bottle Act. The Washington State Senate is expected to concur, and the governor is expected to sign the bill, which would go into effect in July of 2011. Maryland and Wisconsin passed bans earlier this year, as well. A similar bill was presented in the Oregon legislature, but failed in March of this year. In 2009, there were three separate bills on this issue in the federal legislature; all failed. The FDA has been slow to have a definite and strong reaction to BPA in food and beverage containers, although in Jan. of 2010 the FDA did publish an Update regarding its position on this topic. Still, this Update lacks conviction and is cautious in condemning BPA, using phrases such as “there is some concern” or “as a precaution.” Yet the FDA is “supporting the industry’s action to stop producing BPA-containing bottles” and is “facilitating the development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans.”
I’m curious: how many of you have been using BPA-free bottles/cups for years? How many of you are going to go check your cabinets right now to find out if your kids’ bottles and cups contain BPA? And, how many of you think BPA concerns are overblown? How does this issue rank among your worries and concerns? If you are concerned about BPA, I encourage you to contact your local, state and federal representatives to share your thoughts on this matter. I would love to hear from you, as well. I will continue to monitor the progress of any legislative bills concerning BPA in food and beverage containers and update this information as warranted.
On Wednesday, I will post tips for avoiding exposure to BPA and a website or two where you can find more information on BPA. Tune in next Monday to learn everything you ever wanted to know about the importance of a Last Will and Testament and how to get your very own! Over and out.
Updated - March 2011
My second post on ML was about BPA-free products and the laws banning this chemical in certain items. Most of the state laws in place regulate BPA in baby/child products. GreenBiz.com reports "17 states and the District of Columbia will be looking at new legislation to ban BPA from baby bottles, infant formula packaging, receipt paper or a combination of items." Currently, ME, MA, MN, CT, WA, NY, VT, WI and MD have state laws in place banning such products.