Bisphenol A, or BPA, has been slowly disappearing from toys, food packaging and food service items since it was revealed to have health risks including cancer, sexual dysfunction, and heart disease. The issue is particularly important for children, as BPA levels--detectable in the blood and urine of pregnant women, and in the umbilical cord blood of infants--is believed to impact fetal and child development alike.
The fight to have BPA banned from all food service items was escalated late last week when Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to ban it. The Washington Post reports that Markey's argument is not based on the health risks of BPA, but rather is based on the obsolescence of the material:
Markey did not premise his request on the chemical's potential dangers. Instead, he used a provision that allows people to petition for changes to food additive rules if it can be shown that an additive's old use has been abandoned. Markey's office polled the food industry and found that major manufacturers no longer use BPA in their food packaging. Using this "abandonment" clause enables the government to sidestep the debate over whether BPA is safe and still bar the chemical's use.
In three separate petitions, Markey is asking FDA to ban the chemical's use in the packages of three types of household products: infant formula and baby/toddler food, canned foods and beverages, and small reusable food containers.
The four companies that make nearly all the nation's formula said they no longer use BPA, according to the petition. Seven other companies that make canned foods said they either no longer use BPA or they are phasing it out. Seven firms that make reusable containers, such as Tupperware and Glad, said they have either never used BPA or have stopped using it.
The FDA has previously stipulated that BPA carries health risks, but has stopped short of banning it saying that it is safe in small doses.
Image: Plastic baby bottle, via Shutterstock.