The US state of Massachusetts has issued a public health warning to parents of young children advising them to avoid exposure to bisphenol A (BPA).
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) has advised mother of children up to two years old to steer clear of using products that contain BPA for making or storing infant formula and breast milk. The department has also produced a leaflet entitled “How to protect your baby from BPA (Bisphenol A)”.
The DPH said it had issued the alert after examining a number of studies on animals that had “raised concerns about the potential health effects during fetal development and among nursing or formula-fed children who may be exposed to BPA”. The body specifically cited potential harm to changes in the infant’s developing nervous system – including brain growth; behaviourial changes such as hyperactivity and alteration of the prostate gland.
“While researchers caution that more research needs to be conducted, it seems prudent to reduce exposures for pregnant and breastfeeding women to the extent possible in order to reduce levels in their newborn children,” said a health department statement.
BPA is used in plastic bottles to enhance structural integrity, as well as a liner in some food and beverage cans. A number of US states have already banned the chemical for use in baby bottles and some retailers have pledged to sell only BPA-free products. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently reviewing its opinion the substance is safe following concerns that its original findings may have been too influenced by industry-sponsored studies.
Use glass or steel containers
DPH has advised parents to avoid using transparent (clear or coloured) plastic containers or baby bottles marked with the recycling number seven and the letters PC- standing for polycarbonate - as “heat can increase the release of BPA from polycarbonate plastic”.
The body has further urged the wash the containers by hand with warm water and soap, instead of in dishwashers and to replace worn or scratched polycarbonate plastic containers - preferably with glass or stainless steel containers. Pregnant or breastfeeding women were advised to shun canned food and eat fresh or frozen produce instead in a bid “to reduce fetal or infant exposure to BPA”.
Suzanne Condon, director of the state Bureau of Environmental Health, said: “We are concerned about this enough that we want to warn the public. It just seemed it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to sit back and not do anything.”
BPA clause in food safety bill
The news comes just days after the newly passed US food safety bill contained a clause calling on the FDA to complete its review of BPA by the end of 2009. The measure, a version of legislation previously authored by Massachusetts Congressman Edward Markey, directed the agency to evaluate the approved uses of BPA in food and beverage containers and to inform Congress whether each is safe. If the FDA finds that BPA is not safe, it will have to table a public protection strategy for the substance – which could include banning the chemical as well as efforts such as placing warning labels on products that contain it so that the most vulnerable groups can avoid it.
Markey told FoodProductionDaily.com: “The scientific evidence is mounting that BPA poses serious health risks, especially to children, and manufacturers and retailers have already started to pull items from their store shelves.
“I am pleased that Congress acted quickly to ban this toxin from all food and beverage containers so that parents can feed their children without worrying that the food contains poisonous chemicals.”