Protecting Kids from BPA
The estrogenic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is used in products as diverse as thermal cash-register receipts and dental sealants, but we get most of our exposure to the chemical by eating canned foods—the cans are lined with BPA, which leaches into the food and then gets into us.
For the past decade, the focus of advocacy to regulate BPA has been on products for babies and toddlers. But a closer look at the science reveals that this focus on babies may be missing a fundamental and urgent issue: Fetal exposure to BPA is of even greater concern than childhood exposure. In addition to breast cancer, BPA exposure in the womb has been linked to prostate cancer, obesity, early puberty, cardiac disease and lowered sperm counts, even at low levels.
The only way to ensure that the next generation is protected is to protect the entire population and remove BPA from canned food and other products that pregnant women use.
BPA is a problem for Americans of all ages, but babies are especially vulnerable. That's why legislators—and the Breast Cancer Fund—have fast-tracked efforts to get BPA out of young kids' products.
In 2012, the FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, although this was largely a formality, as manufacturers had already moved away from the chemical, also known as “market abandonment.”
In 2013, the FDA banned the use of BPA in infant formula containers, again citing “market abandonment.”
The momentum to curb the use of BPA in food packaging is growing as Sen. Feinstein introduced legislation in 2013 that would require the labeling of food packaging containing BPA, including canned food. The Breast Cancer Fund supports Sen. Feinstein’s BPA in Food Packaging Right to Know Act and is thankful for her national leadership to ensure food safety and to establish strong standards that protect people from toxic chemicals.
Age matters: Learn the three windows of exposure critical to breast cancer risk.Timing of exposure >
In 2013, thirteen states introduced legislation either banning or requiring the labeling of BPA in food packaging, while another four states introduced BPA labeling laws. Since 2009, eleven states and several localities have restricted the use of BPA in baby products including bottles, cups, pacifiers, infant formula and baby food.
Also in 2013, California's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment announced its intention to add BPA to California's influential Proposition 65 list of "chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm." Almost immediately after, the American Chemistry Council, the trade association for the chemical industry, filed a lawsuit to block the listing of BPA. The lawsuit is still pending.
The chemical industry has spent millions of dollars defending BPA and opposing federal and state attempts to regulate the chemical. Trade associations representing food manufacturers and can manufacturers have joined the chemical industry in opposition to restricting BPA use.
Markets Are Moving
BPA-free packaging alternatives exist and have been put to use—thanks to consumer demand—by leading manufacturers of baby bottles, infant formula and even some canned food.
The key with alternatives is that they really need to be safer—which means more rigorous testing than the law now requires. For now, glass and stainless steel continue to be the safest options for bottles. Research on the safest alternatives for canned food is still evolving.
Other Government Action
With the most vulnerable populations in mind and backed by scientific studies, countries around the world are calling for bans on BPA.
Canada announced in April 2008 that it would ban BPA in baby bottles and restrict its use in infant formula cans. Since then, Belgium and Denmark have banned BPA from all infant feeding and food packaging. France took a bigger step and banned BPA in all food packaging beginning in 2015, and Sweden is exploring a broad ban on BPA as well. Even China has promised to ban BPA from baby bottles.