18 April 2005
California Mulls Estrogen-Plastic Ban
by Kate Melville
Baby feeding bottles and other everday plastic items could be causing serious harm, says researcher Frederick vom Saal. He believes that Bisphenol-A (BPA), a man-made chemical used to manufacture polycarbonate products such as hard plastic baby bottles and food storage containers, is extremely harmful.
Professor vom Saal, from the University of Missouri-Columbia, compiled the first study that brought the adverse health effects of BPA to light. He says he now has the backing of more than 95 other independent scientific studies with findings that match. California lawmakers will use this evidence as they consider the nation's first ban of BPA in plastic products made for babies and toddlers next week.
Professor vom Saal said recent studies have shown that BPA is extremely harmful, even in very low doses. The chemical acts like the female hormone estrogen and interferes with the body's natural processes. BPA has been linked to adverse effects on male reproduction, altered immune system function, behavioral changes, learning disabilities, brain damage and an increased chance for certain cancers. Researchers are most concerned about the exposure of babies to the chemical. "The science is clear and the findings are not just scary, they are horrific," vom Saal said. "When you feed a baby out of a clear, hard plastic bottle, it's like giving the baby a birth control pill."
The case for a new government safety standard concerning BPA is documented in vom Saal's article appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives. The last U.S. Environmental Protection Agency risk assessment for BPA was conducted in the 1980's. In his paper, vom Saal says that the latest research showing adverse effects of the chemical are all conducted with an amount of BPA less than the levels normally found in the human body. "If BPA was treated as a drug, it would have been pulled immediately," vom Saal said. "We are not saying get rid of plastics. This chemical can be replaced right now by safer materials and the public would never notice the difference."
Next week, vom Saal will speak to the California legislature which is proposing a bill banning the use of BPA in products made for children three years of age or younger.