Minnesota will be a happier place for babies starting Jan. 1. That's when a new ban takes effect on sippy cups and baby bottles containing Bisphenol-A (BPA). This controversial chemical is used in many plastics and in canned food coatings. Scientists are increasingly concerned that BPA, which mimics the powerful hormone estrogen, can harm fetuses and children.
Four other states are considering a ban. The U.S. Congress has seen two bills calling for a national ban on BPA in baby bottles and children's items. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a bill in the House while Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed one in the Senate.
Many Canned Foods Contain BPA
But last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a ruling saying BPA was safe. The ruling sparked a public firestorm, as critics called the research flawed.
Regardless, corporations are getting the message. Most major baby bottle manufacturers, including Avent, Gerber and Playtex stopped using the substance in bottles they sell in the U.S. in early 2009.
Chemical and oil giant Sunoco announced it would no longer sell BPA to companies seeking to use the chemical for plastic products for children under the age of three. Companies purchasing BPA from Sunoco now need to guarantee they will not use it in products intended for children.
But cheaper bottles and many canned foods still contain what environmental health advocates contend is a significant quantity of BPA.
BPA Is Found In All Humans Too
The chemical is a key building block of many plastics. It is so omnipresent that it's found in the bodies of all humans as well as in breast milk. Scientists have had concerns about health risks associated with BPA since the 1930s. The European Union and Canada have both banned BPA entirely.
But the U.S. government has refused to ban BPA and still considers it to be relatively safe for humans in its current use profile. And several scientific panels of inquiry have claimed that alarm over small-dose exposure to BPAs is misplaced and that there is no solid evidence connecting BPA exposure to health problems.
Environmental health researchers believe, to the contrary, that BPAs are a big problem. They assert that BPA is an endocrine disruptor that the body can mistake for its own hormones, resulting in a host of nasty side effects. The danger appears particularly great for babies, fetuses, and young children, an age group that has the highest sensitivity to endocrine disruptors and other hormone-like chemicals.
Researchers have expressed concerns that BPA exposure can increase chances of lifelong obesity, impair brain and nerve development, and cause disruptions to the body's thyroid regulation system, a key factor that also impacts moods and body weight. A 2008 report by the U.S. National Toxicology program said there was some concern that BPA could impact brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses and in very young children.