Toxic Plastics Chemical in Infant Formula

Executive summary

August 9, 2007

Toxic Plastics Chemical in Infant Formula: BPA in infants and others

BPA is a widespread pollutant in the food supply and in people. Recent research reveals that BPA is a widespread human pollutant, contaminating not only infants through their exposures to BPA-contaminated formula, but also more than 90 percent of thousands of people tested worldwide, from exposures to contaminated canned foods among many other potential sources. As with infant formula, in canned foods such as soups, pasta, and vegetables, BPA leaches from the can liner into the food, and poses particular risks to women of childbearing age and young children.

BPA in food. Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted independent laboratory tests of 97 cans of name-brand fruit, vegetables, soda, and other commonly eaten canned foods to detect the presence of BPA. EWG tests found that of all foods tested, chicken soup, infant formula, and ravioli had BPA levels of highest concern. Just one to three servings of foods with these concentrations could expose a pregnant woman or child to levels of BPA that caused serious adverse effects in animal tests. In addition, two of six cans of infant formula tested contained quantifiable amounts of BPA; the exposure that an infant might receive from canned formula, given his or her small size and limited food sources, makes the level of contamination in these cans particularly troublesome.

BPA in people. In 2005, researchers from the CDC published results from a study of urine samples from 394 adults; these scientists found BPA in 95% of samples (Calafat et al. 2005). In follow-up testing, CDC tested over 2,500 people for BPA and found detectable levels in 93% of those tested. In general, BPA exposures estimated using this new, larger sample of Americans are higher than previous estimates. Median exposures for all 1,664 adults in this study are 35% higher than that reported from the 394 participants in the earlier survey.

This large study of over 2,500 people reveals that young people are generally exposed to higher levels of BPA than adults; median BPA exposure for 260 children ages 6 to 10 was 5 times higher than for adults (0.176 ug/kg body weight/day vs. 0.035 ug/kg body weight/day). In addition, women had higher exposures than men; women of child- bearing age (18-40) had levels that were 43% higher than those found in men. CDC did not include infants in their study group, a critical gap given that concentrations in infant formula indicate that bottle-fed infants may be one of the most highly exposed populations.

BPA has also been found in umbilical cord blood in several studies, indicating that the placenta doesn’t offer protection from exposure to this chemical (Kuroda et al. 2003; Schonfelder et al. 2002; Ikezuki et al. 2002). This is especially concerning, since many BPA studies find that the developing fetus is especially vulnerable to low doses of this chemical. In addition, BPA has also been found in breast milk, also a concern given that BPA has been shown to affect the reproductive system of lab animals in infancy (Kuroto-Niwa et al. 2007; Ye et al. 2006).