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Controversial BPA Up for Debate in Congress

August 3, 2009

BOSTON - It makes some baby bottles, sippy cups, even children's plastic toys more durable, but the use of the chemical Bisphenol A, BPA for short, may come at a high health cost. Some research links it to problems affecting the brain, reproductive and immune systems, especially in children, and two bills under consideration in Congress are looking to ban it.

Fiona Fisher of the Rachel Carson Homestead Association says BPA started out as a synthetic estrogen, and studies have shown that it can cause changes in the hormonal system, a real problem for young children.

"It's linked to development disorders, some abnormalities in reproductive functions, things like that."

Fisher says BPA gets into a person's system by leaching out of the plastic container made with the substance.

"There's been some research that shows that even at room temperature, or even at cold temperatures in plastic water bottles, it does leach into the water."

Fisher says taking BPA out of the manufacturing process would also end problems caused when the containers made with it are thrown out.

"It goes into the system and basically does not get taken out by water treatment plants; therefore it goes back into the water and we're drinking it again."

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that BPA levels in items ranging from baby bottles to food can linings were safe, but after criticism from the medical community, the agency is now taking a second look at that conclusion. In March, six major manufacturers, including Gerber and Playtex, announced they would stop using BPA in products they make and sell.

The Rachel Carson Homestead Association, based at the famous nature writer's birthplace in Pennsylvania, promotes environmental education.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA