November 26, 2010

Baby Bottles With BPA Banned In Europe

The European Union has placed a ban on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic baby bottles beginning next year, citing concerns that the compound could potentially affect development and immune response in infants.

The use of BPA has been in the spotlight for some time, with six US manufacturers removing its use in 2009 from bottles sold in the United States, but not in other markets.

BPA is widely used in the production of hard, clear plastic containers and is commonly found in food and beverage containers.

A spokesman for the European Commission said the proposal had been approved after being presented to a committee of national government experts on Thursday, months earlier than scheduled, and was approved quickly.

The commission had called for the ban in June.

John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Policy, said the ban was good news for European parents.

"There were areas of uncertainty, deriving from new studies, which showed that BPA might have an effect on development, immune response and tumor promotion," Mr. Dalli said in a statement.

The European Union said it will outlaw the production of polycarbonate bottles containing BPA beginning March 2011, and ban their import and sale starting June 2011, the Commission said.

"When you put liquids into a bottle - particularly hot liquids or liquids containing fatty liquids - it leaches out of the plastic. And particularly as the bottle gets older and it gets more scratched, more and more leaches out and into the liquid," CEO Belinda Phipps of the National Childbirth Trust told the BBC.

Phipps said that when a baby drinks from a bottle that contains BPA, the baby absorbs the seeped chemical into its fat.

"It's a chemical that mimics estrogens, but not in a good way," she said. "It interferes with estrogens getting into the receptors, and it can have some very unpleasant effects - and animal studies have shown significant effects."

Canada, which became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance, got strong opposition from the chemical industry.

"Environment Canada's announcement is contrary to the weight of worldwide scientific evidence, unwarranted and will unnecessarily confuse and alarm the public," Steven G Hentges from the American Chemistry Council told the New York Times in response to the decision.

However, Richard Sharpe, of the Medical Research Council's Human Reproductive Sciences Unit at the University of Edinburgh, said the move by the Canadian government must have only been a precautionary measure.

"I do not know of any convincing evidence that bisphenol A exposure, in the amounts used in polycarbonate bottles, can cause any harm to babies as not only are the amounts so minuscule but they are rapidly broken down in the gut and liver," he told BBC.

"Personally I think this is an overreaction but if satisfactory replacements chemicals are available then this can be done to placate those calling for action, but scientifically it's a retrograde step," Sharpe added.


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