The backlash against BPA and other toxic nasties

baby bottlePhoto: Maury McCownFor 40 years, environmentalists worried about a cocktail of scary but familiar toxic acronyms like DDT and PCBs. In the ’00s, we got a raft of new body-invaders to fret about, including PVC, PBDEs, and the real headline-grabber, BPA. Parents in particular got their hackles up when news emerged that the plastic hardener bisphenol A, an endocrine disrupter, is used in products including baby bottles, infant formula cans, and pacifiers. Panic ensued, and some manufacturers and retailers, including Toys”R”Us, Wal-Mart, and Nalgene, began pushing BPA-free products. While states and municipalities rushed to introduce legislation banning the stuff, U.S. regulators struggled with how to manage it, initially relying on an industry-weighted panel that said BPA was A-OK. In fall of 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency would tighten up the nation’s flimsy 1970s-era toxics law, and crack down in the meantime on BPA and five other red-flag substances. And not a moment too soon: a recent study found 232 chemicals in umbilical-cord blood. Turns out the gift of life comes with toxic strings attached.