Canada to Ban Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles, U.S. Urged to Follow

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada, October 21, 2008 (ENS) – The Government of Canada led by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, newly re-elected last week, will immediately draft the world’s first regulations to prohibit the importation, sale and advertising of plastic baby bottles that contain the chemical bisphenol A.

The government also will take action to limit the amount of bisphenol A that is being released into the environment. Environment Canada scientists have found that bisphenol A is entering the environment through wastewater, washing residues and leachate from landfills.

Minister of Health Tony Clement said Friday, “Today’s announcement is a milestone for our government and for Canada as the first country in the world to take regulatory action.”

“Many Canadians, especially mothers of babies and small children in my own constituency of Ottawa West-Nepean, have expressed their concern to me about the risks of bisphenol A in baby bottles,” said Environment Minister John Baird. “Today’s confirmation of our ban on BPA in baby bottles proves that our government did the right thing in taking action to protect the health and environment for all Canadians.”

Hard plastic baby bottles can contain
bisphenol A (Photo credit unknown)

Bisphenol A is an industrial chemical used to make a hard, clear plastic known as polycarbonate, which is used in many consumer products, including reusable water bottles and baby bottles. Bisphenol A is also found in epoxy resins, which act as a protective lining on the inside of metal food and beverage cans.

Canadian officials say the general public need not be concerned about intake of bisphenol A, which primarily harms newborns and infants up to 18 months of age.

“In 2007, we issued a challenge to industry under our Chemicals Management Plan to provide information on how they manage bisphenol A,” said Clement.

This assessment helped the government to determine that the main sources of exposure for newborns and infants are through the use of polycarbonate baby bottles when they are exposed to high temperatures and the migration of bisphenol A from the plastic lining of metal cans into infant formula.

The scientists concluded in this assessment that bisphenol A exposure to newborns and infants is below levels that cause effects.

However, due to the uncertainty raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low levels of bisphenol A, the government of Canada is taking action to enhance the protection of infants and young children.

When bisphenol A enters the environment, the chemical breaks down slowly where there is a lack of oxygen. The combination of the slow break down of BPA and its wide use in Canada means that over time, this chemical could build up in bodies of water and harm fish and other organisms.

The government has allocated an additional $1.7 million over the next three years to fund research projects on bisphenol A. This research, in addition to major studies currently underway at Health Canada and Environment Canada, will help to address key knowledge gaps in both the Canadian and international scientific community, and inform government decision-making should further actions be required, the officials said.

The final screening assessment report and proposed risk management approach was published in Canada Gazette, Part I, on Saturday, October 18, 2008. The proposed risk management approach will be followed by a 60-day consultation period. Regulations are expected to come into effect in 2009.

Today in Washington, DC, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban the use of bisphenol A in all food packaging and as a food additive.

The national nonprofit organization says in its petition that the chemical “causes serious adverse health effects, and the FDA’s continued approval of BPA for use in food packaging violates federal law.”

“When parents prepare their infant’s bottle, pour their toddler’s juice, or make their family dinner with a can of soup or vegetables, they shouldn’t have to worry they are feeding their children dangerous chemicals,” said Dr. Sarah Janssen, scientist in the health program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Biomonitoring done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that there is widespread human exposure to BPA, the petition states.

The CDC tested over 2,500 urine samples from people over the age of six and found nearly 93 percent of samples contained BPA metabolites.

Plastic baby bottles that do not contain
bisphenol A are available. (Photo
courtesy The Soft Landing)

Although the CDC does not do biomonitoring in subjects younger than age six, other scientists have found BPA metabolites in human follicular fluid, amniotic fluid, and breast milk, indicating that prenatal, fetal, and neonatal BPA exposures are occurring.

“This evidence of early life exposure to BPA is most troubling because it is occurring during critical periods of organ development when permanent harm can be done,” the NRDC says in its petition.

The NRDC points to research findings that everyday levels of bisphenol A may be linked to reproductive abnormalities, prostate and breast cancer, neurological damage, insulin resistance and diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.

The FDA first approved use of bisphenol in food packaging in the 1960s. The FDA is now proposing to reaffirm its safety based on two industry-funded studies. Since its original approval, however, new data evaluated by another federal agency, the National Toxicology Program, shows that BPA is a threat at lower levels than the FDA has concluded.

“BPA-free products are already on shelves, but right now it’s confusing and up to the consumer to make the right choices,” said Dr. Janssen. “We rely on the FDA to protect us from dangerous chemicals in our food and beverages. They need to step-up and make sure all of us are safe from BPA.”

If parents and caregivers continue to use polycarbonate baby bottles, the Canadian government recommends that very hot or boiling water not be put into them, as very hot water causes bisphenol A to migrate out of the bottle at a much higher rate than when it is filled with cooler liquids.

Water should be boiled and allowed to cool to lukewarm in a non-polycarbonate container before transferring to baby bottles, health officials warn.

These bottles can be sterilized according to instructions on infant formula labels and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. They should be left to cool to room temperature before adding the infant formula.

Health officials warn that baby bottles should not be heated in the microwave as the liquid may heat unevenly and can cause burns.

To identify polycarbonate bottles, check to see if the bottom of the bottle has the number 7 in the center of the recycling symbol. Although the number 7 is a broad category, you can only be sure it is polycarbonate if the number 7 also has a PC beside it. If the bottle does not have a recycling symbol, there is no certain means of identifying whether it is made from polycarbonate or not.

View This Story On Eco–mmunity Map.