The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just announced an official ban on using the toxic chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, in baby-formula packaging, citing the fact that baby formula manufacturers have largely abandoned the chemical.
Scientists have linked BPA to all sorts of health ailments over the years, including obesity, abnormal social behaviors in children, infertility, polycystic ovarian syndrome, lower sexual function in men, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes. Nearly 200 lab studies indicate that even low-doses could disrupt development in a way that could cause breast cancer and other serious diseases decades down the line. "This is another milestone in the people-powered movement to get BPA out of our food. Consumers demanded BPA-free baby formula, and manufacturers finally did the right thing," says Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy at the The Breast Cancer Fund.
Although public health experts see this as a step in the right direction, the harmful chemical is still ubiquitous in the food system, including canned foods that many pregnant and nursing mothers eat. This means babies are still exposed to the hormone-disrupting chemical during critical developmental points. "The FDA claims that the market abandoned the use of BPA in infant formula containers, so this action appears to do nothing to protect neonates and infants," says BPA expert Laura Vandenberg, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow of biology at the Center for Developmental and Regenerative Biology at Tufts University in Massachusetts. "Instead, fetuses and children continue to be exposed to BPA via the foods their mothers consume, and the FDA has failed to take action on BPA in canned foods."
But Nudelman hopes that the FDA's and the infant-formula industry's moves will push other food processors to eliminate BPA. "The writing is on the wall for canned food makers," she says. "If the entire infant-formula industry was able to go BPA-free, there is no earthly reason why canned food manufacturers can't follow suit."
Used in the resin linings of most canned foods and found in many cash-register receipts and some plastics, BPA has been detected in 93 percent of Americans tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency has even found BPA in the umbilical-cord blood of newborns.
In the short term, the best way to avoid BPA is to opt for fresh or frozen food instead of canned, shy away from using plastics, including in food storage and water bottles, and say no to trivial receipts. On a larger scale, tell your favorite retailers to adopt email receipt policies, urge your elected officials to ban the chemical in food, and be wary of even BPA-free products—a common BPA replacement, BPS, has been shown to also disrupt hormones.
For more ways to safeguard your family from harmful chemicals, read 12 Household Toxins You Should Banish from Your Home.
Published on: July 11, 2013
Updated on: July 12, 2013