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David Wallinga M.D.

Smart_plastics_50x50 Well, at least someone’s showing leadership around bisphenol A (BPA), the controversial chemical that's made into polycarbonate plastic as well as for resin liners of food and infant formula cans.

As reported in the Washington Post on Friday, six makers of clear, polycarbonate plastic baby bottles announced they no longer will use BPA. The announcement follows Canada’s ban on BPA use in children’s products last fall, following its determination that BPA was a hazard to children.

The problem is that more than 2 billion pounds of the stuff is used in U.S. products each year. It's not only in baby bottles, but in compact discs, and used as a coating on credit card receipts. We all are exposed, child or not.

The Center for Disease Control finds BPA in the urine of 93 percent of Americans; hospitalized "preemies" have BPA levels in their urine 10 times higher than adults. Oh yeah, and BPA is a synthetic estrogen. Since 1936, it’s been known as a reproductive toxin. Scientists see the effects of exposing cells to levels of BPA as low as 0.2 parts per trillion. That’s an impossibly minute amount. In fact, the hormone disrupting effects that scientists have seen in hundreds of studies occur at levels we already know occur in our bodies -- and at levels approximately the same as those at which BPA leaches into the liquids from polycarbonate plastic bottles.

Kudos to the baby bottle manufacturers. At least someone’s showing some leadership around this estrogen with which we continue to dose even our youngest, most vulnerable infants. But we have a long way to go. Now, how about the infant formula companies? Or the food canning companies? Safer materials exist. It’s time to start using them.