last updated: January 24, 2013
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in hard plastics and epoxy resins. It was first used in the 1930's as a synthetic estrogen. These days, it helps make plastics strong while staying lightweight, and coats metal food containers in order to preserve the food inside. BPA is one of the highest-volume chemicals produced in the world.
Approximately six pounds of BPA are produced for every American per year. Bisphenol A is a hormone-disrupting chemical, which means that it can mimic or block hormones and disrupt the body's normal functions. Numerous studies suggest it can have health effects at extremely low exposure levels. BPA is especially of concern for vulnerable populations: pregnant women, babies and children.
BPA bans are in place in 12 states, and several municipalities and countries:
California. After several failed attempts due to millions of dollars of opposition spent by the chemical industry, the California legislature passed a BPA ban on baby bottles and sippy cups in October 2011. Due to population, California's ban, added to the ban in New York state, means that manufacturers are under added pressure to remove BPA from certain products nationwide.
Connecticut. As of October 1, 2011, BPA will not be present in infant formula containers, baby food cans or jars, or reusable food and beverage containers. This is the most comprehensive law in the nation. In 2011, Connecticut also became the first state in the nation to pass a ban on bisphenol a in receipts, which will begin in 2013.
Delaware. In 2011, the Delaware legislature passed a bill banning BPA from children's bottles, cups and other food and beverage containers. The bill was passed unanimously in both houses.
Illinois. The Illinois legislature passed the Toxin Free Toddler Act in August 2012 which banned the sale of children's food and beverage containers containing BPA. The law went into effect for manufacturers at the beginning of 2013, and will go into effect for retailers in 2014.
Maine. Despite industry antics in Maine and the opposition of Governor Paul LePage, a ban on bisphenol a passed in Maine in 2011 with an overwhelming legislative majority and without the signature of the Governor. The law will ban BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles and reusable food storage containers began in 2012.
Maryland. Maryland has banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, protecting one of the most vulnerable populations from this harmful chemical. The bill passage was notable for its bi-partisan, nearly unanimous support in both houses and will go into effect in 2014.
Massachusetts. In December 2010, the Public Health Council of Massachusetts voted unanimously to ban toxic BPA in baby bottles and cups. This move was seen by environmental advocates as inadequate as it did not include bans on infant formula and baby food packaging. Advocates were hoping for a stronger ban, similar to those in Vermont and Connecticut.
Minnesota. The Toxic Free Kids Act banned BPA in sippy cups and baby bottles, and the law went into effect on January 1, 2010.
New York. BPA will be banned from young children's products in New York as of December 1, 2010. The passage of the law in the summer of 2010 made New York the most populous state in the nation to ban BPA.
Vermont. In May 2010, Vermont passed a law on the manufacture, sale or distribution of canned infant formula, bottled infant formula, plastic baby containers, and reusable food and beverage containers containing BPA.
Washington. A bill passed in March 2010 will ban BPA from baby bottles, sippy cups, children's dishware and sports bottles in Washington State beginning in July 2010 (with the sports bottle phase-out taking place in July 2011). Read more.
Wisconsin. By June 2010, BPA will be banned from baby bottles and sippy cups for children under the age of 3 in the state. Wisconsin became the third state to ban BPA by passing the BPA Free Kids Act into law in March of 2010.
Albany County, New York. Local Law C was passed in 2009, stating that no one in the county should sell baby bottles or sippy cups containing BPA, or use them with their children. The law went into effect on January 1, 2010.
Schenectady County, New York. A law was passed in 2009 banning the sale of availability of children's beverage containers containing BPA. The law went into effect in late 2009.
Suffolk County, New York. In January 2013, the "Safer Sales Slip" act was signed into law, banning the use of thermal receipt paper containing BPA. In 2009, Suffolk County's BPA ban on baby bottles and sippy cups was the first ban to be passed in the country (New York Times).
Chicago, Illinois. Chicago was the first American city to ban BPA. In May 2009, they banned BPA from sippy cups and baby bottles, and required that stores post signs indicating that products are BPA-free.
Multnomah County, Oregon. While a statewide ban foundered in the Oregon legislature in 2011, Multnomah County passed a ban on BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and reusable containers sold within the county.
Canada. In May 2008, Canada became the first government in the world to that conclude BPA is hazardous to human health and to impose a limited ban on BPA in baby bottles. In October 2010, the Canadian government formally declared BPA to be toxic, setting the stage for further restrictions on the chemical throughout the country.
Europe. The European Union banned the manufacture of sale of baby bottles with BPA.
France. France has passed bans against BPA in food containers. The law for food containers for children will go into effect in 2013, and the law for food packaging for everyone else will go into effect in 2015.
Brain development. Laboratory animals exposed before birth show impaired learning, increased aggression, hyperactivity, and less maternal behavior when the females have their own offspring.
Reproductive development. Laboratory studies have found exposure before birth has lasting effects on levels of reproductive hormones, and causes early onset of sexual maturation in female offspring. It leads to decreased levels of testicular testosterone, greater prostate size, and decreased sperm production in laboratory animals. Decreased testosterone and sperm production have also been seen when adult animals are exposed to bisphenol A.
Reproduction and conception. The Collaborative on Health and the Environment reported that hormone-disrupting chemicals like BPA contributes to reproductive issues, and that conception rates fell 44% between 1960 and 2002.
Miscarriage and Down's syndrome. Laboratory mice exposed to bisphenol A had greater rates of chromosomal misalignments, responsible for Down's syndrome and a significant portion of miscarriages.
Heart Disease. Studies have shown that the more BPA in the urine of adults, the higher their rates of heart disease.
Diabetes and obesity. Adult mice exposed to bisphenol A developed insulin resistance, which is a condition that impairs the body's ability to regulate blood sugar and can lead to diabetes and obesity. A 2008 study in people found that adults with greater exposure to bisphenol A had higher incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Cancer. Laboratory research has found that exposure to bisphenol A alters mammary gland and prostate gland development in ways that could predispose some cancer. In 2010, Environmental Health News reported that a study showed rats exposed to low doses of BPA during development showed changes consistent with cancer formation.
Behavioral impacts in young children. When children were exposed to BPA in utero, the young girls displayed more masculine tendencies and young boys displayed more feminine tendencies.
Male virility. Some studies are showing that endocrine-disrupting chemicals are responsible for a growing number of genital deformities and reproductive problems in men.
Products That Contain BPA
We are finding that BPA's reach is far, and it is used in many products.
Baby bottles and sippy cups. A 2008 study showed that when new baby bottles are heated they release bisphenol a in a level which can be harmful to development. Because of strong action by the states -- particularly Connecticut Attorney General Blumenthal -- 90% of bottles and sippy cups are now BPA-free. Attorney General Blumenthal asked companies directly to remove BPA from their baby bottle and sippy cups, and several of them did so.
The big question is how BPA got so widespread in the products we use everyday as food containers and especially in baby bottles ... We can and must do better when it comes to foreseeing trouble related to the chemicals we put into our environment. Right now we have too much of a buy now and pay later approach to chemical safety. Tens of thousands of chemicals are in use and hardly any of them have been studied with any rigor for their safety. Wouldn't it make more sense to test for harms first rather than find out later?"
--Dr. Aaron Bernstein, Harvard Medical School Center for Health & the Global Environment
Cans. The canning industry uses BPA to line cans that holds fruits and vegetables, soda and beer, and infant formula. For more information, go to Safer Cans.
Register receipts. Many cash register receipts use thermal imaging technology, and those receipts are coated with a layer of BPA to make the ink adhere.
Toilet paper. Dresden University released a study which traced BPA in wastewater back to toilet paper made from recycled products.
Dental sealants. The American Academy of Pediatrics reported in 2010 that dental sealants containing BPA caused levels of the toxic substance to increase in saliva by 88 times for the first couple days after the sealant is used. While the amount levels off after a day or two, vulnerable populations like pregnant women should take this into consideration.
Paper money. A report released by Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families and Washington Toxics Coalition found that BPA was on 21 of 22 dollar bills tested, and is likely due to BPA in thermal paper receipts.
Major Studies & News Stories
January 2013. Suffolk County, New York passes a law prohibiting the use of thermal receipt paper containing BPA.
January 2013. A study reported in Environmental Health Perspectives finds that high levels of BPA in a mother's urine may be a marker for stunted fetal growth.
January 2013. A study reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association finds that BPA concentration was associated with obesity in children and adolescents. "Explanations of the association cannot rule out the possibility that obese children ingest food with higher BPA content or have greater adipose stores of BPA."
December 2012. France bans the use of BPA in packaging that comes in contact with food. The law will go into effect in 2015. Additionally, the French Parliament imposed a ban on BPA in food containers and for children under 3 that will take effect in 2013.
October 2012. UC Berkeley releases a study which shows a link between BPA levels and thyroid hormone changes in pregnant women and baby boys.
July 2012. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) bans BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups nationally, effective October 2012.
March 2012. The FDA rejects a petition by the National Resources Defense Council, and refuses to put regulations on BPA in food containers including cans and other packaging.
December 2011. The Environmental Health Strategy Center (EHSC), in conjunction with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, released a report (pdf) that identified BPA in 280 plastic toys. This was part of a large study that made public 650 brand name household products containing BPA or nonylphelol ethoxylates.
October 2011. When the California ban on BPA was announced, manufacturers realized they were fighting a losing battle against BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. They asked the FDA to eliminate BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, after years of intense opposition to the bans. In their announcement, industry specifically cited the growing list of state laws banning the chemical. (PDF)
Without forward-looking state action on BPA, we would still be waiting around for the federal government to act. It's our hope the chemical industry and the federal government will get behind meaningful reform of the nation's chemical laws. But until that happens, states are going to continue passing laws limiting BPA and other harmful chemicals in consumer products because consumers are demanding it."
-Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, Campaign Director for the Washington Toxics Coalition.
August 2011. A study published in Environmental Science & Techology found that BPA was found to have contaminated paper money worldwide, with especially high levels on money from Brazil, the Czech Republic and Australia.
November 2010. An amendment to the federal Food Safety Modernization Act is proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein which would ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups on a nationwide level, and fails to pass through the U.S. Senate. While the amendment looked like it would pass, last minute industry pressure from the American Chemistry Council (ACC) cased the amendment's votes to fall.
This battle may be lost, but, rest assured, I do not intend to quit. I have a deep abiding concern regarding the presence of toxins and chemicals with no testing in all kinds of products and all kinds of solutions that build up in our bodies. There is no precautionary standard in this country when it comes to chemicals.
-Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
October 2010. A study of BPA levels in pregnant women finds that those who ate canned vegetables daily, were cashiers, or who were exposed to tobacco smoke had high concentrations of BPA in their systems.
September 2010. An attempt to ban BPA from children's food containers in California failed. A California ban would have been important for the demise of BPA across the country given the percentage of the population that is in the state. Manufacturers of the chemical and the products that use it reportedly spent over $5 million.
August 2010. Canada announces intent to label BPA as a toxic substance which will help to get it banned in the country. Canada is the first country to take sweeping action against BPA.
July 2010. The Environmental Working Group issues a report confirming BPA in receipts, and finds that 40% of tested BPA receipts contained BPA. Major retailers using BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets included McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service.
June 2010. The Australian government announces a major phase-out of BPA from baby bottles beginning on July 1, 2010. This is a voluntary phase-out by some of the country's largest retailers.
May 2010. The National Workgroup for Safe Markets releases a report testing the levels of BPA in cans. Results show that BPA is ubiquitous and undpredictable, with inconsistency across brands and types of food, which prevents consumers from avoiding BPA just by looking at the label.
May 2010. The President's Cancer Panel -- a panel of doctors who advise the President -- releases a report called "Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk" which recommends that Americans avoid BPA in order to decrease cancer risk.
April 2010. General Mills announces that it would be removing BPA from its Muir Glen Organic line of tomatoes in "the next tomato harvest." While General Mills has taken the stance for years that BPA is safe, in the end, they bent to public interest saying "... we know that some of our consumers would like us to pursue alternatives -- and we are working with our can suppliers and can manufacturers to develop and test alternative linings that do not use BPA."
January 2010. After previously calling BPA safe for all uses, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changes its stance on BPA, stating that it could have negative effects on fetuses, infants and children, and that further research is needed.
November 2009. Consumer Reports publishes a report testing BPA levels in canned products. The results showed that BPA exists in nearly every canned product, including so-called "bpa-free" cans.
November 2009. The New York Times publishes an op-ed column by Nicholas Kristof warning Americans about the health risks of BPA.
"While the evidence isn't conclusive, it justifies precautions. In my family, we're cutting down on the use of those plastic containers that contain BPA to store or microwave food, and I'm drinking water out of a metal bottle now."
-Nicholas Kristof, New York Times
November 2009. The Washington Toxics Coalition releases a biomonitoring report -- they tested nine pregnant women for toxic chemicals and found levels of BPA, among other chemicals, in every woman.
June 2009. Endocrine Society releases a report linking BPA to heart disease.
June 2009. Chemical and food industry representatives holds a closed-door meeting at an exclusive Washington, D.C. club to discuss how to turn the tide of increasingly negative public opinion surrounding BPA. The meeting draws massive attention from the media over discussion of using fear tactics and a pregnant spokeswoman to manipulate the BPA debate. Connecticut's Attorney General warns industry representatives that he will prosecute if they used "coercive campaigns" surrounding BPA.
February 2009. The Collaborative on Health and the Environment reports that BPA puts women and girls at greater risk for developing reproductive health problems -- early puberty, infertility and breast cancer.
January 2009. Researchers from the University of Rochester report that BPA lingers in the body, which concerns scientists -- the longer BPA is in the body, the more harm it can do.
January 2009. The Government Accountability Office warns that the Environmental Protection Agency is unable to safeguard the public from dangerous toxic chemicals.
November 2008. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel finds toxic doses of BPA in "microwave safe" plastics.
October 2008. Scientists charged with advising the FDA on the safety of BPA warn that the FDA has ignored studies that link the chemical to health problems.
"The FDA relied on the plastic industry in telling the American public that bisphenol A is safe. When a regulatory agency acts as a public relations outlet for the corporations it is supposed to be regulating, the agency should be eliminated."
-Frederick vom Saal, toxicologist, University of Missouri
September 2008. The National Toxicology Program (NTP) releases a report that there is concern about BPA's impact on infants, children and fetuses.
April 2008. Canada classifies BPA as a dangerous substance, and announces intent to ban it in several baby products. Days later, Playtex, which makes baby bottles, and Nalgene, makers of water bottles, announce that they will shift manufacturing to BPA-free materials. Retailers Wal-Mart and Toys R Us announce that they will no longer sell baby bottles containing BPA.
February 2008. Environmental and public health organizations in the United States and Canada release a study in February, "Baby's Toxic Bottle," reporting that BPA leaches out of baby bottles and into warm liquids.
November 2007. A biomonitoring study of 35 participants from seven states finds that all the participants who submitted urine samples had bisphenol A in their urine, and more than half had it in their blood. The levels of bisphenol A in the blood and urine of study participants are within the range shown to cause effects in laboratory animal studies, including impacts on cell function.
Our latest BPA stories.
Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel Watchdog Reports
Environmental Health News
Breast Cancer Fund
Environmental Working Group
New York Times bisphenol a Topic Page