Once upon a time, more than a hundred years ago, a scientist in Germany created a chemical called Bisphenol-A, or BPA.
Around thirty years later, other scientists discovered that BPA was similar to estrogen, the main female hormone of the reproductive system. They thought of using BPA as a synthetic estrogen. But there were better synthetic estrogens, so they didn’t.
Then, in the 1940’s and 50’s, yet other scientists discovered that BPA was a useful chemical after all. They found that it could be used to make all sorts of things, including plastic linings for cans and polycarbonate plastic. Polycarbonate plastic was particularly useful, because it is clear and shatterproof—making it perfect, for example, for baby bottles. Soon BPA was being used in hundreds of different products, from baby and water bottles to bike helmets to dental sealants and medical equipment.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s that laws came into place to regulate the safety of industrial chemicals. And that’s where the BPA story gets interesting. …
Massachusetts has banned the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in all baby bottles and sippy cups sold in the state. BPA is a chemical used in the liners of cans and in plastic containers to prevent spoilage and/or make them clear and shatterproof, making it particularly attractive in the production of baby bottles.
BPA is one of the most common chemicals that people are exposed to, but concerns about how it could affect developing bodies have lead the Public Health Council to approve new regulations barring the production or sale of reusable food and beverage containers for toddlers and infants that contain the chemical. Studies have warned about the potential health effects of BPA- especially for pregnant women, nursing babies and children who eat formula- but data linking the chemical to proven health risks are somewhat murky.
In the following editorial, Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH of Children’s Hospital Boston and faculty member at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, discusses BPA’s origins, why it’s so controversial and what is being done in Congress to protect children from it’s potential risks. …