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Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Posted: December 2, 2010 10:29 AM

Just one week after chemical industry lobbyists blocked my efforts to introduce legislation to ban a controversial chemical used in baby bottles and sippy cups, the European Commission voted to ban Bisphenol-A, or BPA, from plastic baby bottles.

As of March 1, 2011, companies in the European Union will be prohibited from manufacturing baby bottles with BPA, and no baby bottle containing BPA can be sold after June 1, 2011.

The Commission wisely banned BPA over concerns it may harm the health of children. Now, parents across the European Union can breathe a sigh of relief that this hormone-disrupting chemical will not be allowed in any bottles that they use to feed their infants. But parents in the U.S. will need to be more cautious since efforts to enact a similar ban in this country have been thwarted by millions of dollars worth of lobbying.

BPA, which is widely used in food packaging to harden plastic, is an endocrine disruptor that interrupts the way our hormones work. In over 200 studies it has been linked to breast and other cancers, reproductive disorders, cardiac disease, diabetes, early puberty, and more.

A growing body of research suggests that babies are particularly at risk from even very low doses of BPA. The chemical industry has rejected these findings, instead supporting their industry-funded studies involving animals that have shown no harm arising from the use of the chemical. They will resist a ban at all costs, but the tide is turning against them.

Canada became the first country in the world to classify BPA as a toxic substance. It also banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. Denmark and France also have national bans on BPA in certain children's products. Bans are also in place in Australia and seven U.S. states.

The European Commission's new ban on BPA reinforces what a growing number of scientists have been saying -- that the evidence against BPA and its potential health risks on the very young is strong. Chemical companies will continue to push their products in order to make money. This means that parents, grandparents, voters, and decision-makers need to be prepared to make a thoughtful decision on this substance and the type of products they buy.

U.S. manufacturers that no longer use BPA in baby bottles include Playtex, Gerber, Evenflow, Avent America, Dr. Brown's, and Disney First Years. Sunoco, a company that makes BPA, has said it would refuse to sell the chemical without a guarantee that it would not be used in children's products. Eden Valley Organics now sells beans in BPA-free cans, and Walmart and Toys "R" Us will no longer sell baby bottles containing the compound.

Clearly, alternatives do exists and you don't need BPA to make a baby bottle. The chemical lobbyists won a round when I was prevented from offering my BPA legislation, but this fight is just beginning. We must act urgently to protect infants and children from dangerous chemicals.

Until Congress takes action, parents should vote with their pocketbooks by refusing to buy any baby bottle or sippy cup that is not labeled "BPA-free."