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Apr 262008

By John DeFore

nalgene2.jpgA flurry of action regarding a chemical called bisphenol-A, or BPA, broke out last week after word leaked that Canada’s chemical review board was set to deem the substance toxic. Though its name is exotic, the plastic material itself is commonplace, used to make clear polycarbonate bottles that are highly durable, perfect for baby formula or sporting gear. It also turns up in dental sealants, the liners of food cans and many other household products. Studies have suggested that under certain conditions, BPA degrades or leaches into the surrounding liquid or food. When formula is poured into a polycarbonate bottle while still hot, for instance — BPA can migrate into the liquid. While groups like the National Institutes of Health have stopped short of attributing health risks to the chemical, Canadian announcements assert: “Based on the results of our assessment some laboratory studies on animals suggest that bisphenol A at low levels of exposure can affect neural development and behavior when the animals are exposed in very early life.”

As a result of the publicity, companies such as Nalgene (maker of sports water bottles) and Playtex (maker of baby bottles) quickly announced they will stop using BPA in their products, though Nalgene maintains on its website that studies on the dangers of BPA are inconclusive or even support its continued use.

Now, New York Senator Charles Schumer has announced plans to introduce a bill banning the substance and funding a campaign to inform the public of its risks. Shumer expressed frustraton that the U.S. Federal Drug Administration had signed off on BPA as a safe product, despite studies showing it may interfere with human hormones and other functions.

“At best FDA gave Americans a false sense of comfort about a questionable substance,” Schumer told the Associated Press. “At worst, they put millions of Americans directly at risk.”

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