Two New York Senators announced new legislation to ban the plastics chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) from products commonly used by children and pregnant women; the news comes in the wake of a recent study by Consumer Reports that showed BPA is now used to make a much larger range of products, and in higher concentrations, than people previously realized.
Talking about the BPA-Free Kids Act on Sunday, Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand said there have been enough warning signs about the health risks of BPA and yet:
“We have to worry because manufacturers are still using this chemical widely, and it’s getting into our foods,” Schumer told the press.
BPA is and an organic compound that has been in commercial use for half a century and manufacturers use it to make polycarbonated plastics and epoxy resins. Its main advantage is that it make plastics clear and break-resistant, which is how it ends up in baby bottles, plastic containers, the lining of cans used for food and beverages, dental sealants, spectacle lenses, CDs, DVDs, and many household electronic goods.
Some studies have suggested that once in the body, BPA behaves like estrogen and thus disrupts reproductive and neural development; some findings have linked BPA to reproductive abnormalities and a heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease, according to Consumer Reports.
Infants and toddlers are considered at particularly high risk because they have some of the highest levels of exposure at a time when their reproductive and neural systems are most vulnerable.
The BPA-Free Kids Act will make it illegal to make and sell infant and toddler beverage containers containing BPA. It will also require that any children’s food or beverage container that is “composed in whole or in part be treated as a banned hazardous substance under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act”.
Any violations of the BPA-Free Kids Act, including failure to test, certify and label products as required by the Act, will be liable to criminal and civil prosecutions.
According to Epoch Times, Schumer said that the Consumer Reports’ study:
“Adds to the mounting evidence that BPA is not only harmful for our children but for an overwhelming majority of Americans.
“There have been enough warning signs about the dangers of this chemical that we cannot sit idly by and continue to allow residents across New York City to be exposed. We need to keep this dangerous chemical out of the food chain,” he added.
Gillibrand said the report revealed the extent of BPA’s potential exposure to Americans, and it was “unacceptable” to allow it to continue: she said she felt angry and obligated to take action because:
“As the mother of two young boys, I expect to have faith and confidence that the products my family consumes are safe.”
She said she could not feel a “greater sense of urgency” on banning BPA from the foods our families eat, “they already do this in other countries. If Canada can do it, so can we,” she stressed.
The study that prompted Schumer and Gillibrand’s announcement was published by Consumer Reports in November, and found that BPA is even present in foods that carry labels saying they are BPA free.
The consumer group tested 19 branded canned foods, including soups, tuna, juice and green beans and found that nearly all of them contained some BPA. They also found that the canned organic foods they tested did not always have lower levels of the chemical than non organic brands of the similar food.
They said of the 19 brands they tested, they found the highest levels of BPA in Del Monte’s green beans.
Most of the industry reaction to the report, for example the American Chemistry Council, did not dispute the findings, but rather took issue with the report’s recommendations, which included calling for a ban on using BPA to make food containers and packaging material. They said that the industry is keeping well within the safety standards set by the government, which reflects a consensus among expert regulatory bodies worldwide.
But Consumer Reports said this was exactly the point, their main concern is that the current federal guideline for a daily upper limit of safe exposure of 50 micrograms of BPA per kilogram of body weight is too high. They said this figure is based on experiments done in the 1980s and does not reflect hundreds of more up to date animal and lab studies that suggest serious health risks are linked to much lower doses of BPA.
In June last year, Canada became the first country to ban BPA from use in plastic baby bottles. At the time Canadian Health Minister Tony Clement said that the action was based on a review of 150 worldwide studies and it was “pretty clear that the highest risk is for newborns and young infants,” he told the Washington Post.
Earlier this year, six major US manufacturers voluntarily stopped using BPA to make plastic baby bottles.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is about to announce what it considers to be a safe level of exposure to BPA.
A top US official who is leading a study of BPA said last week that children, infants and pregnant women should avoid ingesting BPA.
According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last Friday, National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, who is also the director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said there was evidence that BPA was harmful to human health.
“There are plenty of reasonable alternatives,” said Birnbaum, who told the Sentinel that more work is needed to accurately assess the risks linked to BPA:
“We’re not asking the right questions: we have to look more broadly,” she said.
Sources: Epoch Times (NY), Consumer Reports, govtrack.us, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Washington Post, MNT archives.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD