Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a controversial chemical used to make hard plastics (known as polycarbonate) and to line metal-based food and beverage containers, where it helps prevent rust and increases shelf life.
BPA can be transferred to the food in the container, including canned infant formula. It can also be transferred from certain plastic baby bottles and cups to the food they hold, according to recent studies.
Over the past decade, some parents have become concerned that BPA in an infant’s diet may be associated with hyperactivity and aggressive behavior in exposed children, among other health risks. Because young children’s systems are still developing, children may be more susceptible to the effects of BPA, and their livers may be less able to clear BPA from their bodies.
In January 2009, the six major manufacturers of infant bottles and cups — representing more than 90 percent of the total U.S. market — stopped using BPA in their products in the United States. Then in 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. Not over safety concerns, but in an effort to boost consumer confidence that none of these products contained BPA anymore.
Since then, many of the formula makers have also voluntarily discontinued using BPA in their cans containing formula.
The FDA’s current position is that BPA is safe at the low levels found in infant formula — levels lower than originally thought. But the FDA also acknowledges that many of the studies done up to this point did not look closely at the developmental or behavioral effects of BPA. The most recent studies examining for subtle effects have raised some concerns about the risk of BPA on the developing brains, behavior, and prostate glands of fetuses, babies, and young kids.
The FDA is actively continuing to study BPA’s effects on humans. In the meantime, they recommend taking steps to minimize an infant’s exposure to BPA in the food supply. The FDA is also aiding the development of alternative packaging for the linings of infant formula cans.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, August 2019
- BPA is used to make and line food and beverage containers to help prevent rust.
- BPA may be associated with hyperactivity and other aggressive behaviors.
- BPA can get on to food within containers, including food packaged for babies and bottles.
- Ninety percent of baby bottle manufacturers have stopped using BPA in their products in the US.