The hormone-disrupting chemical BPA, or bisphenol-A, can no longer be used to make baby bottles and sippy cups, the federal government announced Tuesday.
The move by the Food and Drug Administration will have limited impact, because manufacturers have already stopped using BPA in these beverage containers. About a dozen U.S. states, including California, have banned BPA from children's products. So, too, have Canada, the European Union and China.
"Consumers can be confident these products do not contain BPA," FDA spokeswoman Shelly Burgess said. She said the agency did not act because it believes BPA is unsafe but because the bottle industry wanted a formal ban for baby products. "We continue to support the safety of BPA for use in products that hold food."
BPA, still found in hundreds of other plastic products such as water bottles and in the linings of metal cans and thermal cash register receipts, has been linked in studies to cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems. A study in Monday's issue of Pediatrics tied BPA found in kids' tooth fillings to a slightly higher risk of children developing behavioral problems such as depression and anxiety.
Since BPA leaches from food and beverage packaging, trace amounts have been found in the urine of at least 90% of Americans.
The American Chemistry Council, which represents plastic manufacturers, argues BPA levels remain safe. In October, it filed a petition seeking FDA's ban of the chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups, having determined that the industry had ceased using it in these products.
Critics say the industry's request is a ploy to stave off tougher measures to ban BPA from all canned food, water bottles and food containers. Some food manufacturers have voluntarily removed BPA from the linings of cans, especially those containing infant formula.
Environmentalists say FDA didn't go far enough. "This half-hearted action - taken only after consumers shifted away from BPA in children's products - is inadequate," Sarah Janssen, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "FDA continues to dodge the bigger questions of BPA's safety."