California Takes an Important Step Forward with BPA Announcement

04/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

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Today the state of California took an important step forward in protecting public health from the toxic chemical bisphenol A or BPA. By posting a request for information on their website, California EPA has just indicated that they intend to list BPA as a chemical “known to the State of California to cause cancer or birth defects.”  California maintains a list of such chemicals under Proposition 65 -- a landmark consumer right-to-know law which can restrict use and require labeling of products containing chemicals on the list.

This is an important victory for NRDC because we filed a petition in July 2009 asking the agency to take this action. The petition to list BPA under Prop 65 was based on a 2008 U.S. National Toxicology Program report which concluded that there is widespread exposure to BPA and that is possible that BPA exposure affects human development or reproduction. NTP found "clear evidence of adverse effects" in laboratory animals including fetal death, reduced growth, and delayed puberty from BPA. The report also expressed “some concern” about the impacts of BPA on the development of the brain and prostate gland. Because the NTP is recognized by the State as an “authoritative body”, these conclusions should trigger a Prop 65 listing.

BPA is used in a number of consumer products, but I am most concerned about the uses in our food supply. Canned food, infant formula, canned beverages and plastic beverage containers including bottles and sippy cups have been made with BPA. The widespread use of BPA in our food packaging has resulted in contamination of not only our food but also our bodies. Studies done by the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection have found BPA in the body fluids of over 90% of Americans.

A chemical with so many red flags for causing harm does not belong in our food nor in our bodies. We applaud California EPA for taking this important step. The process could take several months before BPA is actually on the Prop 65 list, but manufacturers should take heed now.

In the meantime, NRDC recommends that everyone, especially pregnant women and young children, reduce their exposure to BPA as much as possible.

  • Limit your consumption of canned food by eating fresh or frozen produce and buying processed food in "brick" cartons, pouches or glass.
  • Limit your consumption of canned soda and beer -- where possible choose glass as an alternative.
  • If you have a newborn, avoid baby bottles or sippy cups made of polycarbonate (hard, clear, shatterproof) plastic. They are marked with the recycling symbol #7, and sometimes labeled "PC." (Not all #7 plastics are polycarbonates -- the only way to know for sure is to call the manufacturer.)
  • Use a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle.
  • Don't allow your children to have dental sealants made from BPA (or BADGE) applied to their teeth, and don't have these sealants applied to your teeth while you are pregnant. Ask your dentist to provide BPA-free treatments.
  • This post originally appeared on NRDC's Switchboard blog.