The momentum to regulate a potentially unhealthy chemical used widely in consumer products picked up steam this week, when the nation's third-largest city voted to ban the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups that contain Bisphenol A.
Chicago is the first city to enact such a ban. Minnesota recently became the first state, and Suffolk County, N.Y. was the first government in the U.S. to do so, earlier this year.
Several other states, and Congress, are considering similar bans, in order to protect children at their most vulnerable from a chemical that mimics the human hormone estrogen. The Food and Drug Administration has not backed off its endorsement of the chemical as safe, despite independent research that suggests the chemical mimics hormones and could be linked to serious health problems, from diabetes to prostate cancer.
The FDA's stance -- which it determined based on two industry-funded studies and to the exclusion of dozens, if not hundreds, of independent scientific research raising serious questions about the safety of the chemical -- is coming under increasing fire from both within the U.S. (largely thanks to the Heart of Green-nominated reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and abroad.
Bisphenol A is found in the blood of nearly every American tested, and is used to make hard, clear plastics for food containers, dental sealants and the sealants that line food and beverage cans.
Advocates for new regulations have yet another new study to highlight the need for change.
When 77 Harvard student volunteers drank cold liquids from baby bottles for just a week, the levels of Bisphenol A detected in their urine rose 69%. The Harvard University and Centers for Disease Control Prevention study was published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Environmental Health Perspectives.
Their conclusion, stated simply: "One week of polycarbonate bottle use increased urinary BPA concentrations by two thirds. Regular consumption of cold beverages from polycarbonate bottles is associated with a substantial increase in urinary BPA concentrations irrespective of exposure to BPA from other sources."
The Environmental Working Group, which has advocated for regulation of the chemical, called the study "groundbreaking":
These astonishing results should be a clarion call to lawmakers and public health officials that babies are being exposed to BPA, and at levels that could likely have an impact on their development, said the Environmental Working Group's Renee Sharp. The adults in this study were willing participants who understood the risk of exposure, but babies are unwitting victims of the silent but serious threat this hormone- disrupting chemical poses to their health.
Baby bottles aren't the only way one can be exposed to Bisphenol A. It is found in the linings of cans -- canned foods, including infant formula, as well as canned beverages -- and in hard plastic bottles of various types.
As concerns over the chemical have mounted -- largely due to the reporting of the Sentinel reporters over the last couple years -- major retailers and manufacturers like Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Nalgene (also recognized for Heart of Green Award consideration) have vowed to phase out the use of Bisphenol A in children's products. Even Sunoco, one of the chemical's biggest manufacturers, has stopped selling it to companies that might use it in a children's product.
Canada has banned Bisphenol A in many products for babies and young children, and Suffolk County, N.Y., could become the first government in the U.S. to do so. The National Toxicology Program has raised concerns about Bisphenol A's potential to disrupt the normal development of fetuses and babies, and the Environmental Protection Agency has been criticized for failing to consider the cumulative effect of hormone-disrupting chemicals that Americans are routinely exposed to.
Minnesota and Chicago, as of Jan. 1, 2010, will not allow the sale of products containing Bisphenol A if the product is intended for a child under the age of three.
For more information about Bisphenol A and the other ubiquitous hormone-disrupting chemical of the moment, phthalates, see The Daily Green's How to Avoid Bisphenol A and Phthalates.
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