Bisphenol A or BPA is an organic compound that has quickly fallen out of favor and into the news headlines in the past few years. Used in making polycarbonate polymers and epoxy resins which are materials to make plastics, BPA emits hormone-like properties that are weak but detectable, leading to a public outcry of its use in items such as food storage, baby bottles, water bottles and plastic utensils. As with many substances, the United States and countries of the European Union remain divided in how they are handling BPA.
In the United States the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated in 2010 that it is “…taking reasonable steps to reduce human exposure to BPA in the food supply.”
These steps include:
- supporting the industry’s actions to stop producing BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups for the U.S. market;
- facilitating the development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans; and
- supporting efforts to replace BPA or minimize BPA levels in other food can linings.
The FDA is also supporting a shift to a more robust regulatory framework for oversight of BPA while seeking further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA and supporting recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services for infant feeding and food preparation to reduce exposure to BPA. Eleven states have also passed legislation banning BPA in baby bottles and/or sippy cups made for toddlers. In the fall of 2011, the American Chemistry Council petitioned the FDA for an outright ban on BPA.
While this approach is seemingly comprehensive, others have criticized the United States for not tackling BPA exposure with the full force of the law. Many European countries such as Denmark and Sweden banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, and the European Union banned the marketing and market placement of polycarbonate baby bottles (which contain BPA) in 2011.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Australia and New Zealand has determined it does not see a health risk with the use of baby bottles with BPA in them. Some have argued that these widely differing standards across the globe are harmful to international trade and confusing for parents trying to make decisions for their children. A greater issue that is arising is BPA in stored foods, as BPA is in the plastic lining of many tin cans in order to prevent corrosion. Certain high acidity items such as tomatoes are especially difficult to store, while public demand for a BPA free can liner continues to grow. Combined with recent headlines about a link between BPA and obesity and diabetes, it remains certain that the BPA debate is here to stay.