April 21, 2008 -- Wal-Mart, Toys "R" Us , Babies "R" Us, and CVS/pharmacy say they will phase out baby bottles containing the chemical bisphenol A.
Bisphenol A, also called BPA, is a chemical found in polycarbonate plastic, which is used to make products including some water bottles and baby bottles, and epoxy resins, which are used to line metal products such as canned foods.
In a draft report issued April 15, U.S. government scientists note "some concern" about bisphenol A's possible effects on health, based on lab tests in rodents. But that report isn't final, and the scientists aren't calling bisphenol A unsafe.
The American Chemistry Council, an industry group, wasn't immediately available to comment on retailers' decisions about bisphenol A. The council has previously said that the potential human exposure to bisphenol A is "extremely small" and that bisphenol A poses no known risks to human health.
Retailers Reconsider Bisphenol A
Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us, which includes Babies "R" Us, issued statements about their decisions to phase out baby bottles containing bisphenol A.
Wal-Mart spokesman Nick Agarwal says, "Safety is a top priority for Wal-Mart. While the FDA has not established any restrictions on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, for several years now we have offered a variety of BPA-free products for customers who seek this option. We are working to expand our BPA-free offerings and expect the entire assortment of baby bottles to be BPA free sometime early next year."
Likewise, the Toys "R" Us statement notes that "while the FDA has not changed its position on the safety of products made with bisphenol A (BPA), in light of growing consumer concerns on this topic, the company has been working with manufacturers to phase out all baby bottles and other baby feeding products containing BPA" in its stores. The company expects that transition to be complete by the end of 2008.
CVS/pharmacy is also expanding its choice of BPA-free baby bottles and will phase out baby bottles containing bisphenol A over the next year, but it isn't pulling any products off its shelves right now, CVS spokesperson Erin Pensa tells WebMD in an e-mail.
Other stores aren't going quite that far. For instance, Target spokesman Joshua Thomas tells WebMD that although Target has "not experienced a significant shift away from polycarbonate products, we are continuing to expand our offerings of non-BPA options for baby bottles throughout this year and into 2009."
Baby bottle sellers aren't the only companies backing away from bisphenol A. Reusable bottle maker Nalgene says it will stop using bisphenol A in its consumer water bottles. Playtex Infant Care says that most of its products are already free of bisphenol A and that it will stop using bisphenol A completely this year.
These decisions come in the wake of the Canadian government's recent bisphenol A risk assessment, which mainly focused on babies up to 18 months of age who are fed through polycarbonate bottles exposed to high temperatures.
The Canadian government concluded that bisphenol A exposure for those babies is "below levels that may pose a risk," but "to be prudent," Canada proposes banning bisphenol A in polycarbonate baby bottles and taking other steps to reduce bisphenol A exposure in babies.
In response, the American Chemistry Council says that it respects Canada's decision but that Canada's move isn't based on science. The council also says it has asked the FDA to "re-review the safety of bisphenol A for additional reassurance to the public on the safety of consumer products."