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What's in your child's sippy cup?

Maryland PIRG's Jenny Levin Authors an Editorial Column on BPA
Jenny Levin

The Food and Drug Administration recently reversed its position on bisphenol A (BPA), used in baby bottles, sippy cups and some infant food containers, stating that the compound is of “some concern” to human health and that parents should take steps to reduce their children’s exposure to it. Then it more or less left it at that, at least for now, claiming it lacks the authority to do more.

I don’t think that’s good enough. And neither should the state of Maryland.

There have been numerous peer-reviewed studies linking BPA to adverse health effects such as diabetes, early onset puberty, ADHD, heart disease, and prostate and breast cancer. Because it mimics estrogen, BPA can disrupt normal hormone messaging, making infants in critical stages of development especially vulnerable. The Endocrine Society regards BPA as an “endocrine-disrupting agent” that may cause abnormalities even at “infinitesimally low levels of exposure.”

And by the way, there’s a good chance that your own exposure has already gone beyond “infinitesimally small.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that 93 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies — and that children have higher levels than adults.

Despite this growing consensus, it may be years before the federal government steps in to ban BPA or even require basic product labeling; according to Deputy Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, Congress may need to give the FDA the authority to regulate at all.

Let’s not wait. Legislation being offered in Maryland by Del. James W. Hubbard (D-Prince George’s) and Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) would restrict BPA from children’s products in the state. In what is sure to be a tough year in Annapolis, where budget issues will no doubt force many unpalatable actions, here’s a chance for Maryland lawmakers to take a strong stand for children’s health.

The writer is an environmental health and toxics program associate with the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

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