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A Dark Day for BPA

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Public skepticism about bisphenol A (BPA) has been a lingering issue in the retail industry for some time now. Studies have linked the chemical, which is used to strengthen plastic and appears in baby bottles and numerous other reusable containers, to various ill effects through the years, and so some manufacturers and retailers have eliminated it from their products. Federal agencies, however, have kept the waters calm by maintaining that low levels of BPA are harmless.

A report issued earlier this week could change all that. The National Toxicology Program, a federal organization that’s part of the National Institutes of Health, stated that the chemical may cause cancer and other ailments. This after lab tests on rats found that BPA exposure created a host of problems including precancerous tumors and hormone imbalances.

The significance here is that the NTP’s report represents the first acknowledgement by the government of risks associated with BPA. For many environmental groups, it’s vindication. The plastics industry, in response, points out that the results are only preliminary.

No matter what the final ruling might be, consumers, retailers and politicians have decided they’re not taking any chances. Stores throughout Canada are working feverishly to remove products containing BPA from shelves in anticipation of the country declaring the chemical a potentially dangerous toxin, according to Toronto’s Globe and Mail. Companies that produce BPA-free containers, meanwhile, have experienced explosive growth and should see demand increase even more with this latest report.

Demand like this presents a tempting opportunity, but retailers shouldn’t get ahead of themselves. The NTP will publish its finalized report this summer, and it’s certain that the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency will eventually have their say, too.

The best course right now might be to review categories to see what items contain BPA, and then be ready to make changes if it comes to that. In some cases — like with baby bottles — it probably pays to make alterations now.

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