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Breaking: Harmful Chemical BPA Banned Today in Maryland

If you use plastic baby bottles, clear sippy cups or clear plastic storage containers, take note!  Fox News is reporting that as of today, Maryland is the fourth U.S. state to “ban the chemical Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, which was linked to early puberty, childhood obesity, autism, reproductive problems, breast cancer and other medical issues.”  Clear plastic containers can leach BPA into food and drink when heated.

The Maryland ban gives manufacturers of baby bottles and other children’s products until 2012 to stop using BPA.  Other states that have banned BPA include Minnesota, Illinois and Connecticut.  BPA is also prohibited in Canada and parts of Europe.  According to Fox, “a bill to ban the chemical in California was defeated Monday.”

And – get ready for this one.  Guess what other extremely common item has been found to contain BPA?  Receipts.  BPA is used “to make ink visible on thermally-sensitive paper.”  You know that shiny, silky white paper most restaurants use nowadays to give you your bill?  (The kind I handled for years as a waitress at sounds like Schmapplebee’s?)  Yeah.  Covered in BPA.  Berlin-based urologist Professor Frank Sommer, 42, told The (London) Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that “men could ingest enough BPA from its use in receipts to suppress male hormones in the body.”  So if BPA increases estrogen in men, wouldn’t it also increase estrogen levels in women?

“BPA mimics estrogen,” Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., of Yale University, said at a press briefing in February, 2009.  MedPage Today covered the story, and they say that “mice that were exposed to BPA as fetuses developed abnormalities of the ovaries, uterus, and vagina,” according to Taylor.  “Other murine studies found genetic abnormalities in eggs, an increased risk of mammary cancers, and early puberty in females.”  Male mice exposed to the chemical experienced lowered sperm count and increased prostate size.

Taylor noted that though few human studies have been done, BPA exposure increases the risk of miscarriage and polycystic ovary disease.  It is also known to cause obesity.  So, unless you live in Maryland, Minnesota, Illinois or Connecticut, looks like it’s time to call your Senators.

UPDATE, 4:48 pm: Speaking of Senators, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. “is sponsoring a bill banning BPA from food packaging,” because cans are also known to leach BPA into foods, according to WebMD.  They report that “a study conducted by a coalition of consumer and food safety groups found detectable levels of BPA in 46 of 50 grocery store cans tested.”  Feinstein says, “I no longer eat food out of cans. I no longer buy cans, I look for jars.”  I guess I’ll be doing the same.  I’ve always preferred glass jars to plastic, but have frequently purchased things like beans in cans. 

Feinstein also noted that U.S. law does not currently require companies “to prove chemicals like BPA are safe before using them in a way that exposes the food supply.”  Clearly.  According to the Grocery Manufacturers of America, “BPA has been used for over 30 years in food and beverage packaging, including cans.”  Feinstein said she’d back legislation requiring chemicals be proven safe before being sanctioned for use in food or food packaging.

Photo: nerissa’s ring via Flickr

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