FDA's New Bottle & Sippy Cup BPA Ban Sends Disturbingly Mixed Messages

If you've been concerned about your kids' exposure to the controversial chemical bisphenol-A, yesterday unveiled some good news -- and bad news -- from the Food & Drug Administration. The FDA has finally banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, thanks to the American Chemistry Council's request for the FDA to phase out rules allowing BPA in these products.

The bad news, or at least less thrilling news, is that manufacturers had already stopped using the chemical in bottles and cups -- so we can't really thank the FDA for stepping in and making sure these products are safer for our children. Not only that, but BPA is still allowed in hundreds of other plastic items, from water bottles to canned food to dental sealants.

It's also used in containers of baby formula.

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Environmentalists and health advocates have longed been calling for the controversial plastic additive to be eliminated altogether. In 2008 the FDA said there was no scientific data showing BPA is dangerous, but two years later they changed their tune, citing "some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.”

Yeah. Some concern. I find THAT concerning, don't you?

The party line from the FDA is that their ban on bisphenol-A is just codifying what the industry was already doing with baby bottles and sippy cups ("based on the preference of consumers") and doesn't actually reflect any concern (there's that word again!) about the safety of BPA. According to the agency,

(The FDA) has been looking hard at BPA for a long time, and based on all the evidence, we continue to support its safe use.

Interesting that in comparison, the FDA's own website says,

FDA is taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply. (...) FDA is also supporting recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services for infant feeding and food preparation to reduce exposure to BPA.

As for what the other experts are saying, non-profit watchdog the Environmental Working Group claims that BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity, and resistance to chemotherapy.

Other scientists pushing for a ban on the chemical argue that BPA mimics the effects of the hormone estrogen, interfering with growth and development. About 90 percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their urine, mainly as a result of food and beverage packaging.

As if all that isn't eyebrow-raising enough, a study that was released just this month links the BPA that is used in certain types of children's tooth fillings to an increased risk for behavioral problems.

It's hard to look at the massive public outcry against BPA -- and the FDA's own "concern"-- and believe that the administration did enough with this step. They banned a chemical from two types of products, but only because the ban was already voluntarily in place? Meanwhile, the agency says they're awaiting the results of further studies on BPA safety, and have apparently been doing so since 2010?

If there's a lesson to be learned here, it's that consumer demand creates change. You can thank the thousands of worried parents for convincing the bottle and cup manufacturers to alter the way they made their products, because it sure wasn't the government's doing.

As for cans of formula, the FDA says the use of BPA in those is "under review." Of course, BPA is routinely found in breastmilk, too, so it's a good thing it's so safe ... right?

What do you think of the FDA's current stance on BPA? Do you try and avoid it, or do you feel it's a safe chemical for humans?

Image via thesoftlanding/Flickr

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