Our Patience Has Run Out: NRDC Sues FDA for Failure to Regulate BPA

Today, NRDC filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration for its failure to act on a petition to ban the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in food packaging, food containers, and other materials likely to come into contact with food.  The FDA has failed to take action for more than 18 months in response to an NRDC petition, even though the agency expressed concern about the effects of early life exposure to BPA on brain and reproductive development in January, 2010. In our petition, NRDC argues that the existing scientific evidence is more than sufficient to conclude that BPA in our food supply is not safe for human consumption.

BPA is used to make polycarbonate plastics, which are commonly used in consumer products including baby bottles, sippy cups, and reusable water bottles. BPA can leach from these containers into the liquid inside. Another major use of BPA is in the resin lining of canned food and beverages, including beer and soda cans, and canned liquid infant formula. Most people are exposed to BPA by eating contaminated food, and BPA has been detected in infant formula, canned food, and canned beverages.

The FDA has been slow to acknowledge current science on BPA and has been reluctant to regulate the use of this chemical in food packaging. While they continue to conduct research and deliberate when there will be enough evidence to compel them to act, Americans continue to be exposed on a daily basis to this chemical which has been linked to a wide array of harmful effects. 

Most people assume that the government wouldn’t allow Americans to be exposed to BPA if it wasn’t safe, but while the FDA has been reviewing the science, as of yet, no action has been taken. So today, the NRDC has asked the court to order the FDA to act. 

Why am I concerned about BPA?  BPA is a hormone disrupting chemical that acts like the female sex hormone, estrogen, and can interfere with normal development and function of the body. In animal studies, exposure early in life to BPA has been linked to prostate cancer, breast cancer, pre-diabetes (insulin resistance), changes in fat metabolism, chromosome abnormalities, and changes in the way the brain develops resulting in behavioral abnormalities. Emerging human research has found similar evidence of harm, including altered toddler behavior, miscarriage, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and erectile dysfunction.

And all of us are exposed; over 90% of Americans tested by the CDC were found to have residues of BPA in their bodies. Other research shows that babies are being born with BPA already in their blood, which means that they are being exposed through their mothers before they are born.

While we await the court’s decision, NRDC recommends that everyone, especially pregnant women and young children, reduce their exposure to BPA as much as possible.

  • Limit your consumption of canned food by eating fresh or frozen produce and buying processed food in "brick" cartons, pouches or glass.
  • Limit your consumption of canned soda and beer -- where possible choose glass as an alternative.
  • If you have a newborn, avoid baby bottles or sippy cups made of polycarbonate (hard, clear, shatterproof) plastic. They are marked with the recycling symbol #7, and sometimes labeled "PC." (Not all #7 plastics are polycarbonates -- the only way to know for sure is to call the manufacturer.)
  • Use a BPA-free reusable water bottle, such as an unlined stainless steel bottle.
  • Don't allow your children to have dental sealants made from BPA (or BADGE) applied to their teeth, and don't have these sealants applied to your teeth while you are pregnant. Ask your dentist to provide BPA-free treatments.