By IAN AUSTEN
OTTAWA — The Canadian government moved Friday to ban polycarbonate infant bottles, the most popular variety on the market, after it officially declared one of their chemical ingredients toxic.
The action, by the departments of health and environment, is the first taken by any government against bisphenol-a, or BPA, a widely used chemical that mimics a human hormone. It has induced long-term changes in animals exposed to it through tests.
Also on Friday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he intended to introduce on Monday a bill that would ban many uses of BPA-related plastics. It would prohibit them in all children’s products, including nonfood items they may put in their mouths, as well as in any product used to contain food or beverages.
The toxic designation will allow Canada eventually to ban the manufacture, import or sale of baby bottles made with polycarbonate. Polycarbonate, which dominates the North American baby bottle market, mimics glass but is lighter and shatter-resistant.
The toxic designation is to be followed by a 60-day comment period, but there is little chance of a reversal, given the lengthy government examination that preceded the move. Because of regulatory procedures, however, government officials said that a ban probably would not be fully in effect for about a year.
“We’re not waiting to take action to protect our people and our environment from the long-term effects of bisphenol-a,” the environment minister, John Baird, told a news conference, where he displayed an array of baby bottles made from plastics that do not use the material.
The health minister, Tony Clement, told reporters that after reviewing 150 research papers and conducting its own studies, his department concluded that children up to the age of 18 months were at the most risk from the chemical. Mr. Clement said that animal studies suggested “behavioral and neural symptoms later in life.”
Potentially unsafe exposure levels are far lower for children than for adults, Mr. Clement said, and he and Mr. Baird both said that adults who use plastic containers made with the chemical were not at risk.
“For the average Canadian consuming things in those products, there is no risk today,” Mr. Clement said.
He said that the government was also concerned about the use of BPA in coatings inside infant formula cans, but did not act because no practical alternative is now available. The government, he said, will work with formula and packaging industries on that issue.
The government has begun monitoring the exposure of 5,000 people to the chemical. If that study, to be completed in 2009, indicates a danger to adults, the toxic designation will allow the government to take additional action swiftly, according to government officials who, following official practice, spoke on the condition they not be identified.
The government said that its review found that even low levels of the chemical can harm fish and other aquatic life over time, and that low levels are present in waste water.
Canada’s move drew praise from environmentalists. “I have nothing but congratulations for the government today,” said Rick Smith, the executive director of Environmental Defence, who has long criticized the use of BPA. “This sends a clear message to the plastics industry that it needs to start reformulating its products.”
But in Washington, Steven G. Hentges, the head of the American Chemical Council’s polycarbonate group, told reporters in a teleconference: “We do not think that bans on bisphenol-a are based on science.”
Shannon Jenest, a spokeswoman for Philips Avent, which makes bottles from polycarbonate and other materials, said she “wouldn’t see us challenging” the Canadian health department.
But Gemma Zecchini, senior vice president of public policy for Food and Consumer Products of Canada, whose members include the bottle makers
Canada Takes Steps to Ban Most Plastic Baby Bottles
By IAN AUSTEN