Treehugger reports that Canada is poised to become the first country in the world to list Bisphenol A (BPA) as a toxic substance and ban the use of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles made of this controversial material. It also intends to tell baby food manufacturers to reduce the amounts of it leaching from the linings of infant formula cans.
Steven Silverman, the general manager of Nalgene, the company that became the generic name for polycarbonate bottles says:
“Based on all available scientific evidence, we continue to believe that Nalgene products containing BPA are safe for their intended use…However, our customers indicated they preferred BPA-free alternatives, and we acted in response to those concerns.”
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, 17% of the American diet comes out of cans, and many of those have an epoxy liner made with BPA, a chemical which can mimic human estrogen and which is linked to breast cancer and early puberty in women. While the leaching of BPA from Nalgene water bottles and other polycarbonate bottles is a concern, the danger from canned food may be greater.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested canned food bought across America and found BPA in more than half of them, at levels they call “200 times the government’s traditional safe level of exposure for industrial chemicals.” There are no standards for BPA; it is allowed to be put in anything, and billions of pounds are produced each year.
The EWG found:
Of all foods tested, chicken soup, infant formula, and ravioli had BPA levels of highest concern. Just one to three servings of foods with these concentrations could expose a woman or child to BPA at levels that caused serious adverse effects in animal tests.
In America they are saying that getting this substance out of cans, particularly baby formula, will be difficult as it as visible and well-known as an issue. The New York Times quotes the chair of the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, an industry group, as saying that researchers had been unable to develop an alternative lining that performs as well as the current epoxy. “The epoxy resins are the gold standard right now.”
A recent report from the US National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, found that low levels of the chemical harmed animals tested.
The study suggests that the chemical, a synthetic estrogen, is linked to many cancers, early-onset puberty, obesity and type-2 diabetes. It also states that BPA can even alter cell behavior at very low levels.
The vague nature of the phrase “some concern” has parents and some physicians at a loss as to what to do – and just what BPA is.
Basically, it’s everywhere. BPA is often used in polycarbonate plastic products, which are commonly used to make baby bottles and the inner metal coatings of infant formula and other canned foods.
And yet no U.S. federal agency has moved to limit exposure to BPA, organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have no formal position on the issue, and manufacturers are insisting that the chemical is safe for humans.
The Result: Confusion.
“That’s a tough one,” said Dr. Daria Anagnos of Physicians to Children in Montgomery. Though many pediatricians are awaiting advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, they’ve also done research by visiting the Web sites of environmental groups and nutritionists.
The key to steering clear of BPA products is looking on the bottom of the container. Plastic bottles and cups labeled with 7 are the ones that will potentially release BPA.
It’s the releasing, or leaching, of BPA that could be harmful, Anagnos said. The study showed that the longer a liquid sits in a container containing of BPA, the more BPA can leach (dissolve) into the product. BPA leaches more with age, and as polycarbonate products are continually washed in hot water or heated in the microwave, more leaching occurs.
Therefore, Anagnos said, it’s important not to heat liquid in the bottles or put them through the dishwasher. But it’s equally important to clean the bottles out completely, as evidence shows that letting liquid remain in the bottle, even for an hour or so, can lead to the release of BPA.
One thing concerned parents can do is look for options. For instance, Babies “R” Us, Target and Wal-Mart (which plans to phase out all BPA products in the next year), do sell BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups. Also, though glass bottles are not widely available locally, they are making a comeback, experts say (the new glass bottles have a silicone skin that protects them from shattering).
Neither Target nor Wal-Mart stores sell glass bottles locally, but you can buy the Born Free 9-ounce glass bottle for $10.99 at Babies “R” Us, Target.com and WalMart.com (earlier this week, this bottle was sold out at WalMart.com).
Other choices include using powdered baby formula, or liquid formula not packaged in cans. Then there is breastfeeding, the BPA-free choice that doctors consider to be the gold standard in baby’s nutrition…
“I don’t think it’s a big crisis, but I think we need more information,” Anagnos said, adding that common sense measures — careful cleaning of bottles and avoiding heating them — can go a long way. “It’s something we all need to look into.”