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What you need to know about BPA

  • Weego bottles from Babylife are covered with a sleeve to prevent slippage. The glass bottles are free of BPA and polycarbonates.

    Weego bottles from Babylife are covered with a sleeve to prevent slippage. The glass bottles are free of BPA and polycarbonates.

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By Sarah Jackson, Herald Writer
  • Weego bottles from Babylife are covered with a sleeve to prevent slippage. The glass bottles are free of BPA and polycarbonates.

    Weego bottles from Babylife are covered with a sleeve to prevent slippage. The glass bottles are free of BPA and polycarbonates.

Washington lawmakers have approved a statewide ban on the chemical bisphenol A in baby bottles and other food containers for ages 3 and younger.
Gov. Chris Gregoire is expected to sign the bill, which handily passed both houses last week.
It is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2011, and will also include sports bottles as of July 1, 2012.
Though the law aims to reduce infant and adult exposure to bisphenol A, also known as BPA, it won't take the chemical out of the food supply.
BPA is still legal in food packaging such as the BPA linings used for canned foods and beverages, including baby formula, baby food jar lids and home canning lids.
Here's what you need to know in light of the new law.
Q: What is BPA?
BPA, short for bisphenol A, is a mass-produced chemical used in the manufacturing of certain plastics.
It is under fire from health organizations because it can mimic the hormone estrogen and, if it leaches from containers, disrupt the body's endocrine system and potentially cause serious health problems.
BPA has been used since the 1960s in a variety of food packaging, including epoxy resins used to line the insides of cans and metal lids for glass jars.
Q: Where is BPA?
In 2009, Consumer Reports found BPA in most of the 19 name-brand foods it tested.
BPA is also used to make polycarbonate, a hard plastic. Polycarbonate is used to make sports bottles, water cooler jugs, baby bottles and food storage containers.
Plastics marked with a No. 7, “PC” or “other” recycling symbol are typically this kind of plastic, but not always.
Q: Why is BPA used?
BPA epoxy linings are prized because they prevent corrosion, contamination and food spoilage and provide a shelf life of at least two years.
In polycarbonate bottles, BPA provides heat resistance and toughness.
Q: What's the problem?
The Food and Drug Administration, which had said repeatedly that BPA leaching levels were safe, changed its stance in January, citing potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and young children.
The FDA referred to a study by the National Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institutes of Health, which also found minimal concern that exposure to BPA could cause early onset of puberty in girls.
Though the FDA did not ban BPA, it called for “concern” and further investigation of the “uncertainties” of its risks.
Recent studies, including many testing rats and some focusing on humans, have linked low and high levels of BPA exposure to serious health problems.
Q: How do we know we're being exposed to BPA?
In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected BPA in the urine of nearly 93 percent of 2,517 people tested, age 6 and older.
Q: What's been done?
Many baby bottle and sports bottle manufacturers have already switched to other plastics that don't contain BPA.
Metal bottle manufacturers such as SIGG are trying alternative linings for their aluminum containers. Klean Kanteen and Nalgene produce stainless steel bottles with no lining at all.
Though other countries such as Canada and Japan have put more widespread restrictions on BPA, food packaging companies and food manufacturers in the United States are struggling to find affordable, effective BPA alternatives for canned goods.
Q: Who cares?
Major retailers such as Babies R Us have phased out baby bottles that contain BPA in the past few years in response to consumer demand.
Consumer watchdog organizations, such as the Washington Toxics Coalition and the Environmental Working Group have long urged consumers to avoid products that contain BPA.
Q: Who's in favor of BPA?
Not everyone is convinced that exposure to BPA is harmful.
The industry-backed American Chemistry Council, citing recent studies from the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Toxicological Sciences, has argued that normal exposure levels pose no risk to humans.
According to the council, the average adult would have to ingest more than 500 pounds of canned food and beverages every day over a lifetime to exceed the safe level of BPA set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Q: What's happening around the country?
Washington's new law will follow similar laws in Connecticut, Minnesota, Maryland and Wisconsin.
California, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont are considering BPA legislation this year, according to the Environmental Working Group.
Ways to stay away from BPA
Choose wisely: Buy powdered infant formula instead of liquid unless the packaging is labeled BPA free. Look for BPA-free bottles, sippy cups, dinnerware and food packaging.
Hold the heat: If you use polycarbonate containers, don't fill them with hot liquids and do not heat them in the microwave; use glass or ceramic containers instead.
Get fresh: Buy fresh or frozen vegetables and boxed soups and broths instead of canned.

Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037,
Story tags » Health

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