WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration banned the chemical known as BPA on Tuesday from baby bottles and sippy cups and took a step toward removing the plastics additive from containers used to package baby formula.
The ban on BPA in baby bottles is not expected to have a significant effect, because manufacturers had already stopped using the chemical. Last fall, the state of California banned Bisphenol A, or BPA, from drinking containers for infants.
Some consumer health groups chastised the FDA for moving slowly on the ban.
“Once again, the FDA has come so late to the party that the public and the marketplace have already left,” said Jason Rano, director of government affairs for Environmental Working Group. “If the agency truly wants to prevent people from being exposed to this toxic chemical associated with a variety of serious and chronic conditions, it should ban its use in cans of infant formula, food, and beverages.”
BPA is typically used to help harden plastics during manufacturing, but trace amounts of the substance can leach into food. Some scientists and doctors have expressed concern on the effect of the chemical on the developing brains of children. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 90 percent of Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies.
BPA is still used in other food packaging. The agency’s proposed ban on using it for infant formula containers had long been sought by Representative Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat. The proposal is now open for public review and comment.
Earlier this year, Markey petitioned the FDA to halt use of the plastics additive in baby and toddler food packaging, as well as in reusable household food and beverage containers.
“With FDA finally taking steps to remove BPA from infant formula, feeding time for parent and babies just got much safer,” Markey said in a statement. He is the senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FDA.
Markey also introduced legislation in 2011 to ban BPA from all food and beverage containers, but the bill has not yet had a hearing.
Beverage companies have opposed the wider ban, saying there is insufficient science to support the need for it.
“Our scientists, and the independent scientists with whom we have consulted, have thoroughly reviewed the data and have assured us that our beverage cans pose no public health risk,” the Coca-Cola Co. said in a statement on its website. The company lines its aluminum cans with BPA-containing plastics.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says there is still “much uncertainty regarding the chemical.” As a result, the institute is investing $30 million for BPA-related research, in coordination with a larger five-year study by the FDA.