It’s official. As of July 18, the US Food and Drug Administration has banned bisphenol A or BPA from baby bottles and children’s sippy cups. Care2 members played no small part in this victory. Over 75,000 people signed petitions supporting this ban.
While a positive announcement, the response of many parents and consumers is likely to be not so much “how great!” but “what took so long?”
BPA is an estrogen-mimicking chemical that can seep into food. Public concern about the chemicals has grown in the wake of studies such as one that found that, in 2,000 people, over 90 percent had BPA in their urine, not to mention a 2010 FDA announcement about the “potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.”
Manufacturers have already ceased to use BPAs in baby bottles and sippy cups and CNN goes so far as to say that the FDA’s decieion is ”largely symbolic.” The New York Times notes that the FDA made its decision at the behest of the American Chemistry Council, which is the main trade association of the chemistry industry and which has wanted to clear up confusion about the safety of BPA.
Indeed, Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, downplayed the decision, saying that it “simply codified what the industry was already doing based on the preference of consumers and did not reflect concerns about the safety of BPA in baby bottles or toddler’s cups.” Based on available evidence, Taylor said that “we continue to support its safe use in other materials.”
In other words, the FDA is swerving short of saying BPAs are unsafe. Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women and Families, said that “The FDA is slowly making progress on this issue, but they are doing the bare minimum here.”
The ban does not extend to other uses of BPA, in containers for baby formula, in water and soda bottles made from clear and hard plastics (polycarbonate) and in the linings of food and beverage cans. Dr. Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist at the environmental advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, emphasized to CNN that, for the FDA to “truly protect the public” it needs to ban BPA “from all food packaging.”
Is the FDA’s ban nothing more than a pyrrhic victory for public health, a way to (in the words of Dr. Janssen) “dodge the bigger questions of BPA’s safety”?
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