Efforts to Ban Chemical BPA Picks Up Momentum

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On July 1, Maryland became the fifth state - joining Connecticut, Minnesota, Washington, and Wisconsin - to enact a law that prohibits the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, sippy cups, and clear storage containers.

Chicago and Suffolk County, N.Y. have also passed similar measures.

BPA is a ubiquitous hormone-disrupting chemical used to harden plastics. BPA is used in baby bottles, sippy cups, and to line most food and beverage cans, including infant formula. It is also found in CDs, DVDs and store receipts.

Worried about BPA? You should be...studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have found BPA in the urine of approximately 93 percent of Americans.

Concerns about BPA's safety have been debated for years. Research has found the chemical can leach into food and beverages when containers are heated and could pose a health risk at extremely low exposure levels, especially to infants and young children. There have been more than 200 published studies linking BPA to a number of medical problems including breast and prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, childhood obesity, neurological problems in infants and young children, early puberty, and immune and sexual dysfunction.

In 2008, despite the voluminous number of studies and warnings from independent scientists and government experts at the National Toxicology Program, the FDA declared BPA "safe" largely based on two industry-funded trade groups.

Following intense criticism from scientists, consumer groups, and an FDA advisory board who admonished the agency for excluding studies that suggested BPA could pose a risk, the FDA reversed its position this past January and said the agency had "some concern" about the chemical's safety, particularly its effects on fetuses, infants and children, but was still unwilling to declare BPA unsafe.

In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated BPA as a "chemical of concern" and announced it would intensify its efforts to evaluate the chemical's health affects.

While our federal agencies cannot seem to make up their mind about BPA's safety, Canada, Japan, Denmark and France have already banned it from a number of baby products.

Several manufacturers have already taken steps to phase out the use of BPA. Just a few weeks ago Heinz Australia announced it plans to stop using the chemical in all its baby food packaging citing "mounting consumer fears over the substance".

With the evidence against BPA building - and children's health at stake - many state officials are not waiting for federal action and taking matters into their own hands.

Two weeks ago, the California Assembly passed their own BPA bill. Having already passed in the senate, the bill is expected to go to Governor Schwarzenegger's desk in the next few weeks. Similar legislation is also pending in Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Vermont and Pennsylvania.

Like many other chemicals, the more scientists study BPA, the more concerned they become.

Earlier this month - the same day the Maryland bill was signed into law - The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for failing to regulate BPA and protecting the public.

According to NRDC senior scientist Sarah Janssen, "BPA-free alternatives are already available and on the market....It's upsetting that food is most people's primary source of exposure to BPA. The FDA should act now to eliminate this unnecessary risk."

Deirdre Imus is the Founder and President of The Deirdre Imus Environmental Center for Pediatric Oncology (r) at Hackensack University Medical Center and Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Imus Cattle Ranch for Kids with Cancer. Deirdre is the author of four books, including three national bestsellers. She is a frequent speaker on green living and children's health issues, and is a contributor to FoxNewsHealth.com. For more information go to www.dienviro.com