FDA Takes Baby Step Toward Protecting the Public from BPA

by Aimee Simpson

July 18, 2012

Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it would amend an existing food additive regulation to prohibit the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in “infant feeding bottles (baby bottles) and spill-proof cups, including their closures and lids, designed to help train babies and toddlers to drink from cups (sippy cups).”  BPA, a chemical commonly added to polycarbonate resins (a fancy word for plastics), continues to raise concerns over its low-dose, endocrine-disrupting health effects.  Despite these health and safety concerns, the FDA’s decision to ban BPA in these limited items responds to a petition from the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which cites abandonment as the reason for the regulation amendment—not safety.

The good news about FDA’s BPA ban: FDA finally took an affirmative step toward protecting some of the public from BPA.  The bad news: the step is a meager one that establishes little more protection than state legislatures and grass-roots campaigns have already achieved through state bans and market pressures.  FDA, in other words, permanently banned BPA from products that already have removed it.

As I explained in a previous blog posting concerning CPR Member Scholar Noah Sach’s and my comments on the ACC’s petition and in CPR’s previous white paper on BPA regulatory options, FDA can take much larger and more meaningful steps to protect the public.  These steps begin with recognizing the safety and health risks associated with BPA and include implementing broader bans without regard to age and use limitations and mandating BPA labeling requirements.

We are not alone with these ideas.  According to the FDA, of the six comments received concerning the ACC’s petition, five raised the issue of BPA’s safety either exclusively or in combination with other points.  FDA deemed these safety concerns to be outside the scope of the abandonment petition and continues to assert that it is in the process of evaluating BPA’s safety.   Meanwhile, scientists outside of the FDA seem to encounter fewer delays in evaluating BPA and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals’ health risks and concluding that something needs to be done.

The FDA was responding to a particular petition in this instance, but the time has come for the agency to utilize its independent authority to recognize the safety issues associated with BPA, construct meaningful protections, and go beyond baby steps.

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