First, it was taken from baby bottles.
Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in in the packaging for infant formulas.
This was a marketplace reality anyway. According to the agency, all the producers of infant formula have already voluntarily removed BPA from their packaging. But this makes it an official rule.
Groups that have urged more restrictions on the chemical, which has been linked to many adverse health effects, including breast cancer, obesity and infertility, cheered the action.
"This is another milestone in the people-powered movement to get BPA out of our food. Consumers demanded BPA-free baby formula, and manufacturers finally did the right thing," said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy at the Breast Cancer Fund, in a press release. "The writing is on the wall for canned food makers. If the entire infant-formula industry was able to go BPA-free, there is no earthly reason why canned food manufacturers can't follow suit."
In making the decision about in fant formula packaging, the federal agency did not address the safety of bisphenol A overall, as many in the environmental and health community had hoped. The agency noted that it was simply "because these uses have been abandoned" by manufacturers.
In March of 2012, the agency denied a 2008 petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council to keep the hormone-disrupting chemical out of all food packaging. It said at the time that this was not a final determination on BPA's safety, either. It said it would continue its examination of the chemical.
Gretchen Lee Salter, expecting mom and leader of the Breast Cancer Fund's "Cans Not Cancer" campaign, said that while she's heartened by this small step toward banning BPA, it's still not enough. "If BPA isn't safe for babies, then it's certainly not safe for my 2-year-old or even for me during my pregnancy," said Lee Salter in the fund's press release. "It's frustrating that we're still having this conversation. None of us—not babies, not kids, not pregnant moms—should be exposed to this toxic chemical."
In April, California added bisphenol A to its official list of chemicals known to cause birth defects. It requires manufacturers of goods that contain it to reformulate and remove it, or provide consumer warnings on the product or its packaging. The plastics industry sued, and a week later a judge ordered the state to remove the chemical from the list until there's a final determination on previous litigation by the American Chemistry Council, which opposed the listing.
A new study published in June in the journal, Environmental Health Perspectives, shed new light on how BPA is absorbed in the body. Previously, the FDA had based decisions on the rationale that BPA goes into the gut, then into the liver, where enzymes deactivate much of it. But the researchers of this study found that BPA can be absorbed under the tongue and go straight into the bloodstream, bypassing the liver. They said this route of exposure would lead to a far higher exposure to the chemical.