Over the weekend, Chinese media reported that bisphenol A (BPA) would be banned from children’s products. Reportedly, the Chinese Ministry of Health has decided that BPA leaching from baby bottles presents too great a risk to an infant’s health. Though this is just a draft regulation for now, the writing is on the wall that yet another country with a huge market impact is poised to eliminate this chemical from children’s products. 

Last week, a European ban on BPA went into effect when the EU joined other countries such as Canada and the United Arab Emirates in banning the substance in children’s products.

So where is the USA, you might ask?  Why haven’t we banned BPA? 

Well, as usual when it comes to regulating chemicals which have been linked to harm, we are lagging behind.

While other countries have banned use because there is no strong evidence that this chemical is safe and plenty of reason to think it is harmful, the U.S. stubbornly refuses to regulate BPA.

Instead of protecting vulnerable populations, corporate interests have continued to trump public health and common sense in the U.S.  BPA is a chemical known to mimic estrogen and which has been linked to increased risk of cancer, altered brain development, early puberty and other metabolic changes. It really shouldn’t be in our food supply.

The FDA, the federal agency tasked with regulating chemicals such as BPA when used as food additives, has delayed decision-making for over 3 years. Meanwhile, EPA’s proposal to list BPA and other toxic chemicals as “chemicals of concern” has been held up by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for nearly a year.

In the meantime, nine states have passed laws regulating the use of BPA and dozens more have introduced legislation.  But federal debate was blocked during the recent vote to update our food safety laws when Senator Feinstein attempted to introduce a federal ban.  Recently, Representative Markey has re-introduced legislation to ban BPA and revamp the system for how food additives are assessed for safety by the FDA. However, there has been no debate on the proposed legislation to date.

And though around the globe the market has responded to the demand for BPA-free alternatives and BPA-free baby bottles are widely available, the U.S. states that have not enacted bans are now at risk for becoming the dumping grounds for all the banned BPA products from elsewhere. It is still legal to sell a BPA baby bottle or sippy cup in most states in the US and I imagine they are pretty cheap these days.

It’s a theme we can expect to be repeated over and over again as other countries continue to ban chemicals like BPA, phthalates, and flame retardants, all of which have continued to be legal for use in the U.S. Our lax chemical regulatory laws and the lack of political to fix them will means that we run the risk of becoming the toxic dumping ground for all the products which have been banned in other countries.

This is why we need comprehensive chemical policy reform and why we are working so hard to engage this Congress in the debate. It is also why we continue to call for the FDA to remove harmful food additives such as BPA from our food supply.  Please join us in calling for reform and educate your family and friends.

We have more information BPA and recommendations for avoiding exposure on our website. These include:

  • Limit your consumption of canned food by eating fresh or frozen produce and buying processed food in "brick" cartons, pouches or glass.
  • Limit your consumption of canned soda and beer - where possible choose glass as an alternative.
  • If you have a newborn, avoid baby bottles or sippy cups made of polycarbonate (hard, clear, shatterproof) plastic. They are marked with the recycling symbol #7, and sometimes labeled "PC." (Not all #7 plastics are polycarbonates-the only way to know for sure is to call the manufacturer.)
  • Use a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle.
  • Don't allow your children to have dental sealants made from BPA (or BADGE) applied to their teeth, and don't have these sealants applied to your teeth while you are pregnant. Ask your dentist to provide BPA-free treatments.
This article was reprinted with permission from Switchboard.nrdc.org
China bans BPA, leaving U.S. behind yet again
Dr. Sarah Janssen, NRDC health expert, doctor and mom, posts regarding the China BPA ban.