Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

California Senate approves BPA ban for babies, but what about adults?

This week, the California Senate voted to ban plastics chemic bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups sold in the state. The Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act (AB 1319) is now heading for the state Assembly for a final vote. The ban would prohibit BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, infant formula and baby food made or sold after July 1, 2013. Further, manufacturers will be required use the least toxic alternative substance for any substitutions. 

California is the eighth state to enact this ban, even after the “unprecedented” $5 million the chemical industry spent to defeat it.

So why the ban? BPA is used to make a polycarbonate plastic and some resins. It has been found to mimic estrogen in the body. This can result in breast and prostate cancers, as well as the altered growth of reproductive organs during development. Studies on animals have shown links between fetal exposure to BPA and damage to reproductive organs in males as well as early puberty in females. It’s believed that people are exposed to BPA through food and drinking vessels; therefore, the passage of this bill is a clear step forward for healthier children.

However, as news of this potential ban grew, a common shout went up amongst the population not in diapers. Why is it just focused on children? Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is director and CEO of Healthy Child, Healthy World, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting children from harmful chemicals for the past two decades. 

As Sarnoff said in an email to Pacific Swell, “Children are uniquely vulnerable to toxic exposures. They are typically exposed to more toxics per pound of body weight. Their immature systems are less capable of excreting the toxics. And, perhaps most importantly, they are still developing, so exposures that may have no impact on an adult can create a domino effect of biological disruption in a child.”

Because of this, many of the more well-known studies have centered on children. Two previous studies from the National Institutes of Health focused on developmental and reproductive effects on children, not adults. As WebMD reports, this is the reason that the National Institutes of Health officially has negligible concern over adult health problems from BPA.

Until more studies are done on the dangers for adults, there are still options to limit one’s exposure. After all, billions of pounds of BPA are produced every year for a huge variety of products.

For starters, you can look at the recycling number on the bottom on your plastic to check the number. As the EWG shares, "plastics with the recycling labels #1, #2, and #4 on the bottom are safer choices and do not contain BPA.” Does it have a #7? Then it likely has BPA in it. 

Finally, consider storing your food and beverage in glass containers. Want to use metal? Then make sure it is a stainless steel bottle that doesn’t have a plastic liner. And if you must use plastic, consider containers that are made of polyamine, polypropylene, and polyethylene. As the EWG writes, “Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA.”

Image:  abbybatchelder/Flickr