The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has committed to decide by Mar. 31, 2012 whether a chemical that causes brain damage in developing babies, infants and young children should be banned from use in packaging for food and drinks.
After a three-year delay, the agency agreed to address the use of the chemical—bisphenol-A, or BPA—as part of a settlement reached with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
"Every day, millions of American consumers are exposed to this dangerous chemical, commonly used in packaging for canned foods, beverages and even baby formula," says Dr. Sarah Janssen, a senior scientist in the Environment and Public Health program at NRDC. "The FDA has an obligation to protect us from toxic food additives. As thousands of studies have already shown, BPA is a dangerous chemical that has no place in the food chain. Its use in food and beverage containers needs to be banned."
BPA can be found in the linings of beer or soda cans, vegetable or soup cans and liquid infant formula containers as well as consumer products made from polycarbonate plastics, including reusable water bottles. Consumer demand has already driven baby bottles and sippy cups containing the hormone-disrupting chemical from store shelves, but the exposure from food packaging remains.
"This is a major milestone in this legal battle, and we hope FDA moves to eliminate this dangerous chemical from the food supply," says Aaron Colangelo, an NRDC attorney. "It's disappointing we were forced to go to court to get the agency to do its job, but we're happy to see this move forward."
In 2008, NRDC filed a petition with FDA requesting a ban on BPA in food packaging, food containers and any material likely to come in contact with food. When FDA did not respond, as required by law, NRDC sued in 2010 asking the court to require the agency to respond. This settlement out of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York will require FDA to respond to NRDC's petition by Mar. 31, 2012.
In 2010, FDA acknowledged it had "some concerns" about the chemical's effects on the brain, behavior and prostate glands in fetuses, infants and young children. The agency has supported some steps to reduce BPA exposure but has not banned the chemical's use.
To read more about the settlement, see Dr. Janssen's blog post here: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/sjanssen/nrdc_lawsuit_finally_prompts_f.html