Until last week, no government agency in the world had been willing to say that an estrogenic chemical called bisphenol A might be dangerous. That was despite the growing body of peer-reviewed science indicating that BPA is a potential risk factor for breast cancer, prostate cancer, behavioral changes, insulin resistance, early puberty, miscarriage and more.
It was Canada that finally said enough is enough, and on Friday--after days of speculation--Health Canada announced that it would conduct a risk assessment of BPA. For the next two months, Canada will consider a ban on the production and sale of baby bottles and cans of infant formula intended for very young children.
We could hardly keep up with what followed.
Shortly after word got out that Canada would be announcing an inquiry into BPA's safety, the U.S. National Toxicology Program announced that it had determined BPA to be cause for concern. It is the first U.S federal agency to make such a determination; by contrast, FDA has repeatedly said that BPA is harmless.
In the days since, Wal-Mart announced that it will stop selling baby bottles that contain BPA in its U.S. stores; Nalgene has said it will stop using the BPA-containing plastic in the water bottles the company is best known for; today Toys 'R' Us said that it plans to stop selling baby bottles and other baby feeding products that contain BPA.
Finally, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in an interview late last week that he plans to introduce a bill banning the chemical and funding a public health campaign about its dangers to infants.
Bisphenol A (BPA) was originally developed as a synthetic estrogen, and was later found useful in the manufacture of hard polycarbonate plastics (labeled #7 Other). BPA is used in baby bottles, 5-gallon refillable water bottles, some Nalgene-brand sports water bottles, CDs, liners on food and beverage cans, dental sealants and more.
Because it's in so many products, a whole lot of it is produced--to the tune of 2 billion pounds a year in the United States and 6 billion pounds a year globally. Not coincidentally, it's found in about 93 percent of Americans over age 6.
The chemical industry likely won't go down without a fight for BPA, but there's an important message in all these company announcements: they're getting rid of this chemical because of customer concerns. That means YOU have a voice and a place at this table, that YOU play a role in deciding to use safe products.
I hope you'll stay tuned and see how this plays out, and lend your voice when needed. We'll be following this story, as we have since we became aware of the BPA link to breast cancer several years ago. Check back here, or sign up for our e-mail alerts.