By Meg Kissinger of the Journal Sentinel
Federal and state lawmakers said Monday they would work to ban bisphenol A from food and beverage containers after a Journal Sentinel analysis found that even plastic products billed as "microwave safe" released toxic doses of the chemical when heated.
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said he will re-introduce a bill in Congress in January to ban BPA from food and beverage containers, citing the newspaper's analysis.
"This test of 'microwave safe' containers adds to the already vast and compelling body of knowledge indicating that BPA is dangerous and unsuitable for all food and beverage containers," Markey said.
The newspaper reported Sunday that all 10 products it had tested leached toxic doses of the chemical when heated.
The newspaper measured the amounts of the chemical released after heating, and it used this information to calculate how much BPA children of various ages and weights would consume if they were to eat from the products.
The Journal Sentinel then searched for studies in which scientists had looked at these levels of BPA exposure in live laboratory animals. It found 17 studies that showed harm at these levels - harm that included genital defects, behavioral changes and abnormal development of mammary glands. The changes to the mammary glands were identical to those observed in women at higher risk for breast cancer.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he, too, would renew his fight to have BPA removed from all children's products after reading the newspaper's analysis.
"Parents always err on the side of caution when it comes to their kids' health. We think that the law should do the same," Schumer said.
In addition to Congress, 13 states have proposed bans on BPA. Wisconsin is not one of them. But State Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) said Monday that she is preparing legislation to ban BPA from children's products in Wisconsin.
Lassa, chairman of the state Senate's Committee on Economic Development, said she became concerned about the chemical last spring after learning that Canada was banning the chemical in baby bottles and children's products.
"It's scary stuff," said Lassa, who has children ages 4 and 17 months.
She said she buys food packaged in plastic for her children.
"It's so convenient," she said.
But the more she has learned, the more concerned she is.
"I'm horrified," she said. "The more chemicals we use, the more we are finding out how they impact the human body."
BPA, used to make baby bottles and the lining of metal food cans, including those containing infant formula, is tied to reproductive failures, breast cancer risk, diabetes and heart disease. A study last month found that it interferes with chemotherapy for breast cancer patients.
Lassa said she is consulting with Canadian lawmakers to see how they fashioned their ban. "The biggest question is how to enforce this," she said.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration declared BPA to be safe. But it reopened its examination after a subcommittee of an advisory board found that the agency had ignored valuable studies.
Markey held up the Journal Sentinel results to bolster his criticism of the FDA.
"Without strong, definitive action by the FDA, people across the country are left to wonder whether the foods and beverages they consume are tainted by BPA leaching from the containers, potentially causing serious long-term health problems," he said. "This is unacceptable."
There is no official test to declare a product "microwave safe." Companies are free to label their packages as they see fit, regardless of whether the package leaches BPA when heated.