In 2008, the possible health risks of the Bisphenol A (BPA) -- a common chemical in plastic -- made headlines. Parents were alarmed, pediatricians inundated with questions, and stores sold-out of BPA-free bottles and sippy cups.
Where do things stand now? Have plastic manufacturers changed their practices? How careful does a parent need to be when it comes to plastics and BPA? Here's the latest information we have about possible BPA risks.
BPA is a chemical that has been used to harden plastics for more than 40 years. It's everywhere. It's in medical devices, compact discs, dental sealants, water bottles, the lining of canned foods and drinks, and many other products.
More than 90% of us have BPA in our bodies right now. We get most of it by eating foods that have been in containers made with BPA. It's also possible to pick up BPA through air, dust, and water.
BPA was common in baby bottles, sippy cups, baby formula cans, and other products for babies and young children. Controversy changed that. Now, the six major companies that make baby bottles and cups for infants have stopped using BPA in the products they sell in the U.S. Many manufacturers of infant formula have stopped using BPA in their cans as well.
According to the U.S. Department of Health, toys generally don't contain BPA. While the hard outer shields of some pacifiers do have BPA, the nipple that the baby sucks on does not.
What does BPA do to us? We still don't really know, since we don't have definitive studies of its effects in people yet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration used to say that BPA was safe. But in 2010 the agency altered its position. The FDA maintains that studies using standardized toxicity tests have shown BPA to be safe at the current low levels of human exposure. But based on other evidence -- largely from animal studies -- the FDA expressed "some concern" about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate glands in fetuses, infants, and young children.