Updated January 17, 2013.
We thought that the beginning of the year would be a good time to update you on bisphenol A (BPA): the ubiquitous chemical that is found in canned goods, register receipts, children's products, plastics and even dental sealants, and is linked with health impacts including behavioral impacts in young children, reproductive issues, miscarriage in pregnant women, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups nationally. At this point, eleven states had done the hard work of banning BPA from these products, including New York and California. Manufacturers realized this was a losing battle, and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) took the unusual step of asking the FDA directly to ban the chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups. When asking for the ban, the ACCthe industry group that lobbies on behalf of chemical companiesdirectly cited the number of state bans that had passed as a reason for requesting an FDA ruling. This group had worked very hard to keep BPA bans out of the states, using industry tricks and millions of dollars. But they realized that the public and the tide were against them and requested the federal ruling.
But BPA is still present in so many products that we come into contact with every day, and we continue to learn about the health impacts associated with BPA.
A study reported this month in Environmental Health Perspectives tells us that high levels of BPA present in a mother's urine may be a marker of stunted fetal growth. While the study cautions that further evidence is needed before this can be extrapolated to the greater population, the findings among the subjects of the study were significant enough to be reported. This study comes out on the heels of a UC Berkeley study last fall which shows a link between bisphenol A levels in mothers and thryoid hormone changes in newborn boys.
"Most of the women and newborns in our study had thyroid hormone levels within a normal range, but when we consider the impact of these results at a population level, we get concerned about a shift in the distribution that would affect those on the borderline," said study lead author Jonathan Chevrier, research epidemiologist at UC Berkeley's Center for Environmental Research and Children's Health (CERCH). "In addition, studies suggest that small changes in thyroid level, even if they're within normal limits, may still have a cognitive effect."
The good news is that we continue to make progress in removing BPA from products affecting the most vulnerable populations.
Just last week, a law was signed in Suffolk County, New York that will prohibit the use of receipt paper containing BPA in the county. Connecticut was the first state to pass a receipts law in 2011, and we're hoping that Suffolk County will help lead to a ban in New York State. The BPA that is present in receipts is quite insidious; it is applied to receipt paper as a thin powder to help during the thermal binding of ink to paper. The powder easily rubs off and gets into our skin and elsewhere. This is of concern to all populations, but it is especially worrisome for cashiers and others who handle receipts many hours a day for their jobsthey are being unfairly exposed to this harmful toxic chemical.
Good news is coming out of Europe, as well, where France has banned BPA from containers that are intended for food. The law will take effect in two stages, with children being protected this year, and then food containers for adults being free of BPA in 2015.
The fight to get BPA out of baby bottles and sippy cups was a tough one, and there are many other products that contain BPA that need to be addressed. Maine is working on a ban on BPA in the lids of baby food jars, and has identified safer alternatives.
Update: Within a couple days of of the original publication date of this post, the Maine Board of Environmental Protection unanimously declared their intention to extend Maine's BPA ban to include infant formula packaging and baby food containers. After a board vote, the recommendation will go to the legislature and a ban could take effect as early as August 15, 2013 (more info).
We hope that in 2013 states will again lead the way to national changes and we'll be able to get BPA out of receipts, food containers for babies and cans and other containers that come in contact with our food. It's time for this ubiquitous toxic chemical to go.
You can keep apprised of the fight against BPA by checking our bisphenol A fact page.
Comments on this post
You should be aware of the research indicating the bpa free paper is if anything worse than bpa. Appleton is using BPS as the replacement. This continues the chemical/government technique of replacing chemicals with similar untested products. Bisphenol A or Bisphenol S, they both appear to have endocrine disrupting results. Apparently it takes a heavier coat of BPS to achieve the thermal printing effect and that results in even more exposure to employees and consumers.
GRAS(generally regarded as safe) is the law of the land when it comes to new chemical products.
The Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals, or REACH program in Europe should be adopted in some form here in the USA. We need the consumer to know what they are choosing to spend their money on.
Thanks Steven for the comment. Last week, it was reported that new research indicates one of the popular substitute chemicals for BPA, BPS, may be equally as concerning for our health. An article on the research can be found here: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2013/bpa-alternative-alters-hormones
This is the problem with current chemical laws - they don't require that a chemical be proven safe before it is used in consumer products. We here at Safer States are advocating at both the state and federal levels for stronger laws that require only safer alternatives be used in consumer products.