The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Tuesday that baby bottles and sippy cups can no longer contain bisphenol-A (BPA), the endocrine-disrupting chemical found in plastics and food packaging.
Manufacturers of baby bottles and children’s drinking cups have already stopped using BPA due to safety concerns, but last October the American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry’s top trade association, requested that the FDA phase out rules allowing BPA in these products. The move, which came after the council determined that manufacturers had already abandoned BPA, was designed in part to counter years of negative publicity from consumer groups.
The FDA came to its decision in response to the council’s petition. “Consumers can be confident that these products do not contain BPA,” FDA spokesman Allen Curtis said in a statement. “The agency continues to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food.”
The FDA notes that the ban does not apply to the use of BPA in other plastics or food packaging, including canned food containers, water bottles and baby formula containers, and that the decision does not reverse the agency’s overall position that the chemical is safe.
Previous research in animals has associated BPA exposure to disruptions in reproductive and nervous-system development in babies, but the FDA has long maintained that such findings cannot be applied to humans. Other observational studies in humans have associated prenatal exposure to the chemical with behavior problems and childhood asthma. Just this week, the journal Pediatrics published a study linking BPA in dental fillings to problems like depression and anxiety in kids.
Some 96% of pregnant women have measurable levels of BPA, according to a 2011 study by University of California, San Francisco, researchers; in fact, data show that nearly every American has traces of BPA in their urine from exposure to food and beverage packaging.
For now, the federal government maintains that BPA does not harm humans, but it is spending $30 million on its own studies to assess the chemical’s health effects on humans.
Public health advocates praised the FDA’s ban on BPA in baby bottles, but noted that the chemical still poses a health risk. Legislation introduced in Congress would ban BPA in all canned food, water bottles and food containers. But the American Chemistry Council’s petition to ban the chemical from baby bottles could forestall tougher rules.
In March, the FDA rejected a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council to ban BPA in food packaging.