In an interview after her testimony, Pohl said that to protect her 18-month-old daughter, Mirah, at home in Baltimore, the whole family uses stainless-steel cups or plastic cups that are labeled BPA-free, even though they may still contain some BPA. She's gotten rid of all of Mirah's plastic spoons and stopped putting hot liquids in plastic bowls. She no longer uses plastic containers to heat food in the microwave. She's also limited canned food.
"One reason I am especially concerned about this is that, like lead, BPA is thought to be harmful in very small amounts," she said, citing a report from the National Toxicology Program, on which the FDA's concern about BPA is based. "I hope [the legislation] passes, and think it is an important first step. I hope that it will help to educate people and put pressure on the federal government and the food industry."
Other local groups support a ban, including the Maryland PTA and the Maryland Nurses Association, which noted in Senate testimony that several manufacturers had stopped using BPA in baby products and some retailers have stopped selling them.
But the manufacturers of the containers say avoiding products with BPA is premature. The American Chemistry Council says science doesn't support banning the chemical and notes that the federal government has not done so. The council says BPA is a "key ingredient" that makes epoxy resins used in can linings durable and polycarbonate plastic strong, lightweight and resistant to shattering and heat.
The council points to advice to mothers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Discard scratched bottles, put lukewarm rather than boiling formula in them and don't microwave them. Also, if mothers use formula, they should consult their doctors before making a change.
Even so, many local governments, including Maryland's, do not want to wait for more conclusive evidence from the federal studies to take action.
The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene plans to monitor the federal research but supports the local legislation.
"Although there is not certainty about the health effects, there is clear and compelling evidence that this is a compound that represents a hazard, particularly for a very vulnerable population," said Clifford Mitchell, the agency's assistant director for environmental health and food protection.
"BPA is widely distributed; it's practically ubiquitous and can be found in very young infants," he said. "At this point, we feel we shouldn't wait for scientific certainty because that may take a long time."
Concern mounts over BPA
•Maryland and 19 other states are considering banning bisphenol-A in baby bottles and sippy cups, following Minnesota and Connecticut, Chicago and four counties in New York that already have bans in place.
•The chemical has been used for four decades in hard plastic food containers and the lining of metal food and soda cans. The FDA reversed its position last month and said it had "concern" about the safety of BPA.
•The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends parents reduce their children's exposure to BPA by discarding scratched bottles and putting lukewarm rather than boiling formula in them, and not microwaving them.
•Consumer groups also advise pregnant and breast-feeding women to avoid plastic number 3 or 7 or to use glass bottles, and to buy frozen vegetables, boxes of soup and products labeled BPA-free.