The US Food and Drug Administration changed its mind over the weekend on the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), used in many baby bottles and other plastic containers and in food packaging such as liners of aluminum beverage cans.
From recognizing it as "safe" two years ago, the FDA declared a few days ago that now it has "some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and children."
As a result, it, along with other US government agencies, will investigate the effects of BPA, which is used to harden plastic, on humans and animals.
The Health Ministry in Jerusalem, which does not have an FDA-like agency, said on Sunday that a while ago it established a professional committee to look into BPA for making products for infants and small children. The committee included physicians, toxicologists, an expert in the interference with hormones and a representative of the Israel Standards Institute.
The committee recommended that exposure of babies and young children to BPA should be reduced, and that the risk of the chemical leaching out during heating should be stressed. The Standards Institute and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor are now working on implementation. The Health Ministry said it has already implemented some of the recommendations. Scratched plastic is regarded as more dangerous, as it lets the BPA leach out easier.
One of the clear recommendations, the ministry added, was not to heat formula or other food in containers that are not BPA-free, to prevent the possible leaching of the chemical into the food. An Israeli standard - based on the European one - limits the amount of BPA in baby bottles. Baby equipment free of BPA are usually more expensive than standard products.
Epidemiological tests have found that almost everyone has BPA in their blood, even before birth. While animal tests have shown BPA can be harmful, damage to humans has not been proven.
The FDA was widely criticized in 2008 for pooh-poohing concerns about children's exposure to BPA. Now, after the new assessment, BPA use has still not been prohibited in the US; neither do products have to carry printed warnings.