How to Make Child Care Products Safer

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an endocrine-disrupting chemical commonly used in the production of polycarbonate plastics such as those of child-care products. Shown to cause numerous adverse effects in child development, banning BPA in child-care products would protect young children from the physiological dangers of the chemical.

BPA was first produced as a synthetic hormone, but is now one of the most commonly used chemicals in industrial manufacturing. It is used in the production of polycarbonate plastics including baby bottles, children’s toys, and other child-care products. Because of its unstable chemical bonds, the BPA in plastics degrades under mild conditions such as increased temperature and presence of, or saturation in, saliva. This leeching allows the chemical to enter the body orally through liquids contained in plastics or through direct oral contact to the material. BPA is one of the most frequently detected industrial chemicals in ground water and can therefore, contaminate drinking water when BPA-containing products leech in a landfill.

Once in the body, BPA mimics estrogen, pro-ucing many adverse reproductive, developmental, and metabolic effects. These effects result from the fact that estrogen, a steroid hormone, can cross the blood-brain barrier, bind to receptors, and cause changes in gene expression that influence the cues for sexual differentiation. Consequently, BPA has been shown to cause disruptions in reproductive cycles that are associated with impaired learning and memory.

The Center for Disease Control reports that 95 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. Children are highly vulnerable to the effects of BPA due to their smaller size, habits such as hand-to-mouth touching, and physiological functioning such as the reduced capacity for detoxification. Babies, with this reduced capacity to metabolize BPA, can have up to eleven times higher levels of this endocrine disrupting chemical in their bodies. Pre-natal and neonatal exposure to BPA has been linked to male and female reproductive disorders including reduced sperm count, prostate disease, early puberty, and thyroid hormone action that can lead to breast cancer and other cancers later on in life. In women, studies show that low doses of BPA are associated with miscarriages and polycystic ovarian disease. In addition, emerging studies have shown that even low doses of BPA accumulate more rapidly in the body than previously thought and can lead to hormonal changes that contribute to childhood and adult obesity. Despite these known adverse effects of BPA, the chemical is still widely used in child-care products and toys.  

Analysis 

Banning Bisphenol-A in child-care products would drastically lower the exposure of children to the dangerous effects of the chemical and therefore promote healthy development and lower the risk for related health problems later in life. Thus, this elimination of BPA would incur savings in medical costs associated with the negative developmental effects of the chemical. 

In addition, banning BPA in child-care products would alleviate much of the environmental stress of toxic BPA containing plastics in landfills by encouraging the use of safe and reusable containers. There are many safe materials that could be used in the production of child-care products, including glass and stainless steel, Tritan Copolyester™, high density polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyethylene terephthalate, that could safely replace BPA.

While opponents of this bill might argue that BPA-free products are too expensive, potential increases in product costs will be offset by reductions in medical costs and out-weighed by its myriad health benefits. Furthermore, large corporations such as Wal-mart and plastic bottle producer Nalgene, have already begun to eliminate use of BPA and voluntarily manufacture BPA-free products to alleviate increasing consumer concerns.

Next Steps 

Legislation should be implemented that prohibits the sale of food and beverage containers containing BPA that are marketed for children under the age of three in the United States. Banning the products most likely to leech BPA through oral contact would lessen the exposure of developing children to the harmful chemical.