HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Connecticut’s attorney general announced Thursday that six companies have stopped manufacturing baby bottles containing Bisphenol-A, a chemical some studies suggest may be harmful to infants.

Attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey sent letters last October to 11 companies, asking them to end their use of the chemical.

Avent America Inc., Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex Products Inc. and Evenflo Co. are voluntarily complying with the request, said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

“This step is profoundly important as a message to the rest of the industry, that there are viable, affordable substitutes for this toxic chemical to make plastic usable and shatterproof and those substitutes ought to be used instead of BPA,” Blumenthal said Thursday.

The firms who’ve agreed to stop using the chemical manufacture the majority of baby bottles in the U.S., according to his office. Avent America is a subsidiary of Philips Avent, while St. Louis-based Handicraft makes Dr. Brown’s baby bottles. Gerber is a subsidiary of Nestle USA.

Production of BPA has steadily increased since the 1990s.

According to a report by Environment and Human Health Inc. of New Haven, Conn., the amount produced jumped from about 16 pounds per year in the early 1990s to nearly 2.3 billion pounds in 2007. It is used in the production of clear, hard polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins, often found inside food cans.

In recent years, parents and public health activists have publicly pressured the companies to remove BPA from their products. Many parents switched to using glass bottles to feed their infants after learning that some studies show young children in the U.S. carry the highest concentrations of the chemical in their tissues.

“Any products we’re manufacturing now is BPA-free,” said Jacqueline Burmitz, a spokeswoman for Playtex Products. She said the company stopped manufacturing bottles with the chemical in the fall of 2008.

According to a statement on the company’s Web site, no Playtex infant feeding for soothing products, such as pacifiers, contain BPA. While Playtex said its products containing the chemical are safe, the company acknowledged there is consumer confusion about the issue and has decided to offer a BPA-free line of products.

As with other companies, Playtex is labeling its products as BPA-free.

The Food and Drug Administration has tentatively concluded that FDA-approved products containing BPA that are currently on the market are safe, based on a review of research. However, the agency said it will continue to consider new research and information that becomes available.

Some studies have shown that animals exposed to BPA have experience adverse health effects, including breast and prostate cancer, decline in sperm counts, early sexual maturation of females and neurobehavioral problems, according to Environment and Human Health Inc.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in Suffolk County, N.Y., became the first in the nation to vote on a ban on baby bottles and toddler sippy cups made with BPA.

A legislative committee in the Connecticut General Assembly is scheduled to vote Friday on a bill that would ban products containing BPA marketed for children under the age of three years. It would also ban any reusable food containers or jars or cans containing food or beverage products that contain the chemical and require the labeling of certain products containing BPA.

Sarah Uhl, an activist with Clean Water Action in Connecticut said 14 states have introduced legislation this year restricting the chemical. Canada announced in October it was banning BPA in baby bottles.

Richard Wiles, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group, said the efforts by Blumenthal and the other attorneys general represent the first step on the state level to get rid of the chemical in infant products. He said he hopes this latest development will encourage states to ban BPA in all sorts of baby items, including cans of infant formula.

“This is a good first step, but of course we need to do more,” Wiles said. “If BPA is not safe for babies in bottles, it’s not safe in formula either.”

AP-ES-03-05-09 1634EST

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