New parents have one less thing to worry about after the FDA’s announcement today that baby bottles and kids’ sippy cups can no longer contain bisphenol A, or BPA, a common chemical in plastic products.

Consumers Union has long advocated for banning BPA from baby bottles (and other products such as infant formula containers and baby food jars) due to the chemical’s ability to leach from the containers into food inside, which is then ingested by babies and toddlers.    Hundreds of studies have been done on the health effects of BPA, which point to increased risk of cancer, diabetes, and reproductive, neurological, and developmental disorders.   Young children whose bodies are still developing may be particularly vulnerable.

“Scientific studies show there are serious health risks associated with BPA, and this action by the FDA will help protect millions of the most vulnerable Americans.  FDA’s next step should be to ban this chemical in infant formula containers.  Babies’ exposure to BPA should be minimized in every way possible,” said CU’s Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives, in a press statement today.

The ban comes at the request of the American Chemistry Council, the industry group representing chemical manufacturers, which asked the FDA last fall to change the rules allowing BPA to be used in the manufacture of baby bottles and sippy cups.   The group stated that its members no longer used the chemical in these products.    The request came one week after California became the eleventh state to pass a ban on selling baby bottles and sippy cups that contained BPA, a law that was fought vehemently by the chemical industry.

Many feel the FDA’s announcement doesn’t go far enough, as BPA is still widely used in food packaging including in the lining of canned goods and as a sealant in the lids of jars.   Receipt paper (such as from grocery stores, gas stations, etc.) has also come under fire for a layer of BPA on the surface which is easily transmitted when handled.  BPA is also used in other plastic products, along with dental sealants.

“This is only a baby step in the fight to eradicate BPA.  To truly protect the public, FDA needs to ban BPA from all food packaging. This half-hearted action—taken only after consumers shifted away from BPA in children’s products — is inadequate.  FDA continues to dodge the bigger questions of BPA’s safety,” said Dr. Sarah Janssen, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Consumers Union offers these tips for minimizing your BPA exposure:

  • Choose fresh food whenever possible.
  • Consider alternatives to canned food.
  • Use glass containers when heating food in microwave ovens.
  • Look for water bottles or plastic containers labeled BPA-free.
  • Avoid handling receipt paper if at all possible.