By March 1, BPA will be forbidden in all baby bottles manufactured on the continent. And by June 1, Europe will ban the import and sales of such products. The ban was announced Thursday by EU Health Commissioner John Dalli.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical that acts as a hardener in plastics compounds. But it can also be a "tumor stimulator," Dalli told The Independent newspaper. In September, the European Food Safety Authority cited some "uncertainties" about BPA. "On that decision we decided to ban the use of Bisphenol A in baby bottles," Dalli said.
"The decision ... is good news for European parents who can be sure that as of mid-2011 plastic infant feeding bottles will not include BPA," Dalli also told the UK's Daily Mail.
However, BPA remains in the lids of baby food jars and many other consumer products, including soda cans, cash register receipts, cell phones and computers. Scientists estimate that 90 percent of Westerners have been exposed to BPA and carry traces of it in their bodies.
Last month, Canada became the first country to officially list BPA as a toxic substance.
Plastics manufacturers object to BPA bans, saying research has been inconclusive about how harmful it can be. But groups like the Brussels-based Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) say the chemical can affect human brain tissue even "at surprisingly low doses."
The chemical releases harmful toxins when it's heated up with certain compounds found in food, HEAL spokeswoman Lisette van Vliet told EuroNews. In a demonstration with a plastic bowl made for children, van Vliet said, "If you put some fatty substance in here, and you put this in the microwave, and you heated it up, it is possible for bisphenol A to leach out of this and into the food."
BPA is also found in some food packaging, milk containers, water pipes -- and even dental work.