by Marion Nestle
Jun 3 2009

Bisphenol A (BPA) saga gets more complicated

Keeping up with BPA is a headache.  BPA, you may recall from previous posts, is an endocrine disrupter increasingly associated with developmental disorders in experimental animals and with heart disease and diabetes in humans.  Is it OK to feed infants out of plastic bottles or not?

A new study out of Harvard says that BPA leaches out of plastic bottles even when what is in them is cold.  This, according to the investigators, means that even more BPA will get out when bottles are heated, as is typical of infant formulas.

But European and British Food Standards Agencies say they see no reason to review their previous decision that BPA is safe at current usage levels.

In contrast, the FDA has just announced that it intends to take another look at its previous judgment that BPA is safe.  This action is viewed as evidence that the new FDA Commissioner, Margaret Hamburg, means it when she says the agency’s decisions will henceforth be based on science, not politics.

As for the politics: the chemical industry says Chicago’s ban on plastic baby bottles and sippy cups is scientifically absurd.  And another industry group firmly denies that it was involved in a disinformation campaign using pregnant women to promote the safety of BPA.

Expect more of the same while waiting for the results of the FDA’s ongoing research review.  And in the meantime, why not switch to glass bottles for infant feeding (or breast feed for that matter)?

  • Nancy

    Oy, Marion… That last statement is bound set off a firestorm… In any case, my question is this: what exactly *is* BPA and why is it necessary for plastic?

  • Megan

    Or how about BPA free bottles? Many plastic baby bottles are now BPA free, and are a wonderful option for babies who aren’t/can’t be breastfeed. Glass bottles can be dangerous too – think broken bottles & shards of glass, combined w/ a tired mom & baby!

  • Anthro

    What about pacifiers? They don’t have BPA (I think), but who knows what’s in those nipples that kids are sucking on nonstop for years?
    I never used them, but they are common from what I see.

  • I thought too that one of the big triggers for the U.S. FDA reviewing its regs on BPA was Canada’s series of decisions to ban BPA altogether from baby bottles (April 08), and then their decision to list it as an official toxic substance (Oct. 08) requiring stringent regs in all uses (or phase outs). In addition to plastic bottles, it is also used in lining tin cans.

  • Also, BPA is transmitted in breast milk, so the breastfeeding solution only works if the *mother* is not being exposed to BPA.

  • Daniel Ithaca, NY

    I’m taking a wild guess, but it seems like any possible second-hand BPA exposure would be very very low, but there’s not much need for mom to consume it either!

    BPA, per wikipedia:
    “Bisphenol A, commonly abbreviated as BPA…Suspected of being hazardous to humans since the 1930s, concerns about the use of bisphenol A in consumer products were regularly reported in the news media in 2008 after several governments issued reports questioning its safety, and some retailers removed products made from it off their shelves. ”
    BPA is used to make “Polycarbonate plastic, which is clear and nearly shatter-proof, is used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics. Epoxy resins containing bisphenol A are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans.

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  • Daniel Ithaca, NY

    from th eabove article:
    “Unfortunately, the Food and Drug Administration, which is supposedly deemed with the task of protecting consumer interests has forgotten who it represents.”
    …”Says FDA scientist Laura Tarantino, “A margin of safety exists that is adequate to protect consumers, including infants and children, at the current levels of exposure.”
    what does that mean??? It’s ok to consume this toxic product as long as you don’t get too much?

    “Despite the agency’s continued allegiance to this toxic product, consumers, politicians and advocacy groups are fighting back and saying no to BPA.”

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  • Aurora

    The problem with the last statement of the article: even if you do choose to breastfeed, your child will likely use a bottle at some point. Many of us breastfeeding moms do work outside the home and so it’s not really an either/or choice. Luckily, I have noticed that Medela, a popular producer of breastfeeding supplies, does now have glass bottles designed for working moms concerned about BPA and plastics in general.

  • It makes me want to cry when I reflect back on the warm formula we fed my son in a bottle with BPA, only to move up to milk served up in a sippy cup…with BPA. We’ve learned a lot since then but the damage is done. We did things different with my daughter but we won’t know if it really helped. Their little bodies are exposed to BPA & other harmful chemicals daily.

    Now, we try to avoid the chemicals as much as possible and educate ourselves on where they hide. I also try to help other parents learn about harmful chemicals through my blog and activities with groups. Our children deserve a chemical-free world and there’s no reason they can’t have that. Collectively, we need to voice this to the chemical industry and their lobbyists.