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Momentum Builds to End BPA in Plastics

Apr 22, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

In response to increasing concerns about the estrogen-imitating chemical bisphenol A—BPA—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there’s “no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict its use”; however, legislation has been proposed in several states to limit or ban BPA use and some stores have pulled polycarbonate bottles.  New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill to ban the sale of all BPA-containing products, Canada’s health agency is examining BPA health risks, a major Canadian retailer removed Nalgene and other polycarbonate plastic containers from shelves, and Canada has proposed a BPA ban in baby bottles.

The recent Canadian announcement followed the National Toxicology Program—a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—statement that it found "some concern" that low BPA levels cause changes in behavior; in the brain, prostate gland, and mammary gland; and the age at which girls enter puberty.  In the lab, BPA is linked to sex-hormone-imbalances, including breast and prostate cancer, early puberty, miscarriage, low sperm count, and immune-system changes.  The National Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction found BPA risk and exposure causes neural and behavioral effects in children.  A group of scientists from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the FDA, and the Institutes of Health (NIH) warned that even very low doses of BPA cause profound effects on laboratory animals, particularly during pregnancy and infancy and that BPA can permanently rewire genetic programming before birth.  The federal National Toxicology Program said experiments on rats found precancerous tumors, urinary tract problems, and early puberty when animals were fed or injected with low BPA doses.

Despite this mounting evidence, the industry group, the American Chemistry Council, argues that BPA has been used safely for decades.  Rick Locker, an attorney for the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, says parents can be confident that products made with BPA are safe, saying the FDA has not found that BPA poses a risk to children.  Meanwhile, the FDA has been long under fire for a vast variety of issues that have had a negative impact on American consumers, including the recent revelation about infrequent foreign drug manufacturing plant inspections, contaminants in medications, and uneven drug testing practices, to name a few.

BPA is found in dental sealants, food and baby formula can liners, CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses, and hundreds of household goods.  Over 90 percent of Americans are exposed to BPA, according to the CDC and BPA has been found in the urine of 95% of Americans tested.

Toys 'R' Us announced Monday it will phase out bottles and other "baby feeding products" containing BPA by year-end.  Wal-Mart said it will stop selling baby bottles made with BPA by early next year.  Nalgene, which makes those plastic water bottles so popular with hikers, and Playtex, which makes a variety of baby products, say they'll stop using BPA.  And, Brian Fallon, spokesman for Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat-N.Y., says Schumer will be introducing legislation today to ban BPA from all baby bottles.


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