Reports are coming in that six major manufacturers have agreed to stop selling hard plastic baby bottles made with the controversial plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in the United States.

BPA behaves like the hormone estrogen once it enters the body and disturbs the normal working of certain genes; several studies have linked it to a number of health problems, including one that estimated it was present in the urine of 93 per cent of Americans and others that show it damages development in fetuses and young children.

The six companies, as listed by the San Francisco Chronicle, are: Playtex Products, Gerber, Evenflo, Avent America, Dr. Brown and Disney First Years. They said they will stop selling hard plastic baby bottles made with BPA and some other products made with the chemical.

According to the Washington Post, these six largest manufacturers of baby bottles in the US declared their decision after they received letters from attorneys general in two states asking them to stop using the chemical.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was one of them. He told the Post on Thursday that there was no reason to continue using BPA as alternatives were available. The evidence was clear and we should not be allowing “this stuff to go into children on a massive scale,” said Blumenthal.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the manufacturers Avent, which is owned by Philips, said that while its products met federal guidelines including those set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has not banned BPA, it was withdrawing some of them because of the confusion about the safety of the chemical in items used by babies and the company valued its relationships with its customers.

However, the company will still be selling polycarbonate baby bottles elsewhere in the world.

Several studies have linked BPA to breast cancer, obesity and other illnesses, with one showing people with high levels of the chemical had higher rates of heart disease, liver problems and diabetes, while another linked BPA to brain and mood disorders in monkeys.

BPA has been widely used in manufacturing for over 50 years. Among its many uses is the making of polycarbonate, a clear and shatterproof plastic used to make baby bottles, water bottles, sports equipment, eyeglasses, dental and medical devices, fillings and sealants for teeth, lenses and many household items such as CDs.

The US Food and Drug Administraton (FDA) says BPA is safe, but according to the Washington Post, the two studies it based this decision on were funded by the chemicals industry.

Other studies suggest BPA is more dangerous to the unborn and developing child, and that the FDA’s current safety level is too high. Last year, the National Institutes of Health reported it was concerned that BPA could affect the development of fetuses and young children, and their brains in particular.

Blumenthal told the Post that he was getting other attorneys general to write to more manufacturers to persuade them to stop using BPA in other products such as infant formula cans and all food and drinks containers.

According to the Washington Post, one advocacy group said states are taking the initiative on this because the federal government has failed to act. Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group said it was time for Congress and the Obama administration to “overhaul federal chemicals policy to protect infants and children from exposures to toxic chemicals.”

Sources: Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD