FDA won’t ban BPA—yet


Former Executive Editor, Harvard Health

Most Americans put hundreds of chemicals on or in their bodies each day. Some are completely natural, like those in fruits and vegetables. Others were born in the chemistry lab and are generated in processing plants. Some of the latter are eyed as possible causes of cancer or other maladies. One chemical currently on the hot seat is bisphenol A, or BPA.

Since the 1950s, BPA has been used to make hard plastic water bottles and to coat the inside of food cans. Tiny amounts of BPA migrate from these containers into water or food, and then into people. BPA can also get into the body by handling cash register receipts made with the compound. Most Americans have traces of BPA in their bodies.

BPA is thought to mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen, which can interfere with growth and throw off normal hormonal interactions. Adults and older children eliminate BPA relatively fast chemical through their kidneys. Newborns and infants, though, can retain it for longer.

Animal studies, and a few human studies, have raised the possibility that exposure to BPA may cause reproductive problems, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. This work prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in 2008 to petition the FDA to ban BPA. Last week, the FDA denied the petition, saying the organization didn’t provide compelling data to make the case for a ban.

The FDA didn’t rule out further action. It plans to update its safety review of BPA this year and would presumably make any changes about the use of the chemical based on the results.

Continuing controversy

The NRDC was quick to decry the ruling. “BPA is a toxic chemical that has no place in our food supply. We believe FDA made the wrong call,” said Dr. Sarah Janssen, senior scientist in the NRDC’s public health program, in a statement.

As expected, most can makers and food packagers supported the FDA’s ruling, since a BPA ban would force them to find new packaging materials. Campbell’s has started using a BPA alternative in some of its soup cans, and says in its online statement on sustainable packaging that the company is ” working to phase out the use of BPA in can linings in the rest of our canned products.” Given the controversy and growing consumer awareness of it, other large companies have already moved away from BPA or are planning to do it.

What you can do

Although it may not be possible to completely eliminate your exposure to BPA, you can take several steps to reduce your and your family’s exposure to it.

Infant formula. If your doctor says it’s okay for your baby to have powdered formula, buy it dry and mix it with water. If your baby needs liquid formula, look for types sold in plastic or glass containers instead of canned formula.

Canned food. Tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group found that canned pasta and soups contained more BPA than beverages. Switching from canned to frozen fruits and vegetables can help decrease BPA intake, as can making foods from scratch.

Plastic food containers. BPA is an ingredient in the clear, rigid polycarbonate plastics that are used for sippy cups, baby bottles, food storage, and water bottles. Such containers are often marked on the bottom with the letters “PC,” with or without the recycling label 7. Choose instead bottles and other plastic containers with the recycling numbers 1, 2 and 4, which do not contain BPA. Because heat increases the leaching of BPA into food or water, don’t use plastic containers in the microwave, or to hold coffee, tea, or other hot beverage.

Water bottles. Some metal water bottles have a lining that contains BPA. Choose a metal bottle that doesn’t have a plastic liner.

Related Information: Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy


  1. good tips to prevent us from get BPA. now, we can be more alert to anything that can cause it. and now, I should more check my metal water bottle, is there any plastic linear or not.

  2. annarellas

    Yes, I agree with the last poster. Thanks for pointing this out.

  3. Jessica

    BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical that’s been been linked to a variety of problems, including obesity, early puberty in girls, decreased levels of testosterone and lowered sperm counts in men and lowered immune responses.

  4. Reiki Emporium

    Remember: When in doubt, ask. Even companies implying that they offer BPA-free products can’t be trusted, as so many of us learned when reusable water bottle maker Sigg came clean last year about the BPA in its liners. And if it turns out that BPA is in the product of the company you’re contacting, don’t be afraid to say that you’ll no longer be buying that product. Until the laws change, consumer demand is the only leverage we have.

  5. bestdiet

    BPA can affect the hearts of women, can permanently damage the DNA of mice, and appears to be entering the human body from a variety of unknown sources.

  6. bestdiet

    nowadays produced research should be conducted in-depth testing before release to the public.
    because if it has bad effects for the long term is very dangerous

  7. J.Balog

    Shame that nothing was reported on studies done by other civilized countries like Canada.Or on bans already in place elsewhere.

  8. Gavikal

    Is information about the prevention of BPA was articulated clearly to the public. And is it really something that is harmful to human body?

  9. Big Pharma Owns the FDA

    The FDA should not be asking for proof that something is harmful, it should be asking for proof that something is safe to but in food. Do you need to feed people crude oil to prove it’s unsafe to consume, that seems to by the way the FDA thinks.

    With a form Monsanto Employee at their head it is no surprise really.

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