ban bisphenol a–good idea

US lawmakers move to ban baby bottle chemical

US lawmakers on Friday introduced legislation to ban the toxic chemical Bisphenol-A, suspected of harming human development, from all food and beverage containers.

The move came a week after state officials announced that the six major US baby bottle makers had agreed to stop using the substance popularly known as BPA, which has been blamed for a range of health problems in infants.

“The scientific evidence is mounting that BPA poses serious health risks, especially to children, and manufacturers and retailers have already started to pull items from their store shelves,” said Democratic Congressman Edward Markey, one of the bill’s lead authors.

I’ve posted on this before (below). The problem is we just don’t know what effects it’s currently having on kids, so I think it’s best to be safe.

Bisphenol A is a chemical.

It’s been around for over 100 years, and it’s got a number of different uses. You’ve probably most recently come across it as a component of plastics in polycarbonate bottles, like these:


It’s also a component of epoxy resins, so it’s fairly ubiquitous.

Don’t ask me why this hasn’t been discussed before, or why this hasn’t already been at least a low-grade controversy, because ingested Bisphenol A has been known to have potentially serious human biological effects.

It is an Estrogen hormone mimic (or ‘agonist’). It binds Estrogen receptors and generates the same signal Estrogen normally would, and this effect has been known since the 1930s. I can’t imagine anybody would feel okay with dosing polycarbonate plastic bottles with Estrogen hormone, but that’s the potential effect. It will surely leak into whatever is inside, only to be ingested. And with hot liquids or on hot days, the problem gets worse.

As usual, the question is how much Bisphenol A gets into the liquids and then into us, and how much is necessary before actual effects can be seen. Here’s a pretty good table, from the wiki, that lists the different studies looking at what specific effects it has, and the level at which those effects may be observed:

Dose (µg/kg/day) / Effects (measured in studies of mice or rats)[36][28] / Study Year
0.025 / Permanent changes to genital tract / 2005[37]
0.025 / Changes in breast tissue that predispose cells to hormones and carcinogens / 2005 [38]
2 / increased prostate weight 30% / 1997[39]
2 / lower bodyweight, increase of anogenital distance in both genders, signs of early puberty and longer estrus. / 2002[40]
2.4 / Decline in testicular testosterone / 2004[41]
2.5 / Breast cells predisposed to cancer / 2007[42]
10 / Prostate cells more sensitive to hormones and cancer / 2006[43]
10 / insulin resistance develops in 2 days, chronic hyperinsulinemia at day 4 / 2006[44]
10 / Decreased maternal behaviors / 2002[45]
20 / Damage to eggs and chromosomes / 2003[46]
25 / Health Canada provisional human exposure limit / 1999
30 / Reversed the normal sex differences in brain structure and behavior / 2003[47]
50 / U.S. human exposure limit / 1998[48]
50 / European Food Safety Authority tolerable daily intake level / 2007[49]

Because it’ll probably take years to understand just how much danger Bisphenol A poses, and at what dosage, the prudent thing is to first defend those at most risk. Those would be the smallest ones, who, at one-tenth the size, get potentially 10 times the dosage, and who still must undergo normal development which either depends upon or may get disrupted by hormones like Estrogen. So kids and especially toddlers should be wary of Bisphenol A.

So you may want to take a long look at any polycarbonate bottles that you’re using. Don’t count on the manufacturers posting warnings or alternately bragging about their Bisphenol A-free plastics–the industry has been (so far) terrified of addressing the problem for fear it will ignite a wildfire of controversy and parental rage resulting in a loss of billions of $$ and marketplace trust that could take years to recoup.

This is a potentally HUGE problem that is not being addressed by either the government or industry with the speed for which it requires. Look for the controversy to get a lot worse after a Democrat takes the White House and the watchdog and consumer advocate groups get a little traction. In the meanwhile, until proven safe, I’d keep the little ones away from it.