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House bill would ban BPA in food, beverage packaging

Thursday, June 12, 2008

baby_bottle_legos.jpg It seems like everyone and their mother knows about the risks associated with bisphenol A in baby bottles and hard plastic water bottles. Okay, so maybe they don't know the specifics. Recently, while trying to explain what I do to a new acquaintance, I got a blank look until I said "that chemical in water bottles" -- then the lightbulb went off. "Oh, the Nalgene thing! Yeah, I tossed mine and got a metal one."

Anyway, all the media attention to plastic reusable drink containers has been a little perplexing for those of us at Enviroblog HQ. It's not that the risk of BPA in baby bottles is negligible, but it's minor compared to the potential exposure from canned infant formula. Like all other food cans, formula cans are lined with a BPA-based epoxy resin that leaches into formula, under normal use, at considerably higher levels than BPA from baby bottles. And what's really important is the combined dosage, day in and day out as infants develop.

But a new bill, brought to the House yesterday by Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA), would ban BPA from food and drink containers, including canned infant formula. The ban would affect all canned foods, including prepared foods like soup and pasta which EWG tests found to contain some of the highest levels of BPA. FDA estimates that 17 percent of the US diet is comprised of canned food.

A bill addressing BPA in the Senate would ban the chemical from children's products -- another important step, considering potential exposures from toys, pacifiers and teething instruments that young children put in their mouths. The Senate bill, however, doesn't address food and drink containers. Since many babies are fed canned vegetables starting from 6 months to a year of age, it hardly makes sense to address one and not the other.

Of course, given that there are literally no safety standards for BPA, any legislation at all regulating its use is a significant step forward.

Related: Cheatsheet: Bisphenol A

Photo by Youkeo.