Health advocates say the system in the U.S. needs to be overhauled. Instead of assuming chemicals are safe until proven otherwise, the process needs to be reversed, Dahl said.
"I think it's time for consumers to really understand how broken our federal laws are on toxic chemicals," Dahl said. "Whether it's melamine bowls or BPA, we don't have strong federal laws to make sure chemicals are safe before they go into our products."
Minnesota became the first state to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups in 2009, and while more states have introduced more comprehensive legislation "basically saying we can't play chemical whack-a-mole," Dahl said, her coalition is pushing for Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act, which would reverse that burden of proof.
Laws have focused on children because the effects are bigger when the exposure occurs during development. But we may be just beginning to see the repercussions.
"Even though you and kids might not see effects, generations of exposure, grandchildren might see the effects eventually," Vinas said.
Meanwhile, some scientists are calling for a second wave of plastics that would focus on improved health and environmental safety and sustainability.
"We are in need of a second plastic revolution," said Rolf Halden, a researcher at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute, in a press release announcing his new overview of plastics published in Reviews on Environmental Health. "The first one brought us the age of plastics, changing human society and enabling the birth and explosive growth of many industries. But the materials used to make plastics weren't chosen judiciously and we see the adverse consequences in widespread environmental pollution and unnecessary human exposure to harmful substances. Smart plastics of the future will be equally versatile but also non-toxic, biodegradable and made from renewable energy sources."
Vinas and Watson are hoping that more preliminary testing and screening could sift out toxic chemicals before they hit the market.
"If chemists and biologists work together, they [might be able to] screen out all these potentially bad chemicals that mimic hormones," Vinas said.
What can consumers do now? Glass and stainless steel containers make good substitutes for plastic, experts said. Feed your baby with a glass bottle, advised Arnold Schecter, a public health physician at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas, and eat fresh produce instead of canned vegetables. Because BPS has been found in currency, Vinas avoids cash.
"Ideally, stay away from all of it until we find a chemical that doesn't leach," Vinas said. "But worrying about it is also probably not healthy."