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CALIF. ASSEMBLY VOTES TO REMOVE TOXIC BISPHENOL-A FROM INFANT FOOD AND DRINK CONTAINERS
Scientific Evidence and Concern On Equal Access to Safe Infant Food Products Outweigh Industry Lobbying
SACRAMENTO – Today the California State Assembly passed a bill to eliminate Bisphenol-A (BPA) from food and drink containers designed for children ages 3 and younger. A coalition of health professionals, scientists, parents, and health advocates, supported this measure and herald its passage as a major step in protecting children’s health and advancing chemical policy reform.
The measure aims to protect California’s youngest infants and toddlers from exposure to BPA, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, obesity, neurological and behavioral changes, autism and hyperactivity. SB 797, The Toxics-Free Infants and Toddlers Act, to eliminate BPA, will now go to the Senate for a concurrence vote, and then to Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA), Environmental Working Group, and Breast Cancer Fund, was strongly supported by Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and is a response to scientific evidence that infant exposure to endocrine disrupting BPA at even low levels can negatively impact health.
The debate on this measure culminated in recognizing that while the evidence of BPA’s health danger is mounting, not all communities and families have access to warning information or access to purchasing safer products.
Martha Dina Argüello, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-LA (PSR-LA) asserts, “This is a very important vote in ensuring that all women, regardless of their socioeconomic status, have direct access to safer products. A dual market was being created in which BPA-free products were only available in larger stores, often located in more well-resourced communities. Lack of access to information, and low availability of BPA-free products in smaller corner stores meant that low-income women with limited mobility didn’t have access to safe products for their family.”
In the halls of the Capitol, opponents of the bill dedicated an estimated $5 million on a lobbying effort to prevent its passage. Since it was first considered last year, the implications of its passing or failing have been considered far-reaching. Removing BPA from the food and drink containers of California children is considered a victory for children’s lifelong health, but also an indicator national support for eliminating BPA in food packaging. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has introduced legislation in the U.S. Senate that would ban BPA in infant food packaging, in addition to other food and beverage containers.
As a public health organization working on behalf of the bill, PSR-LA highlighted the more than 200 scientific studies that show BPA exposure, particularly during infancy, is associated with a wide range of adverse health effects in later life. According to the National Institutes of Health, a main route of human exposure is through the leaching of BPA from food and beverage containers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that BPA is found in 93% of Americans.
Many Los Angeles area members supported the bill, including Assemblyman Kevin deLeón, D-Los Angeles, who spoke passionately on the Assembly floor in support. Holding up a container of infant formula labeled “BPA-free”, he pointed out, “You can’t find this in the corner stores in East LA.”
Bill proponents argue further that information about what “BPA-free” means varies greatly by manufacturers, and that SB 797 helps set a safe, standard limit. Research has also uncovered a relationship between household income and BPA exposure, showing that people with the highest BPA exposure were from the lowest income groups.
BPA has been banned from baby bottles and children’s sippy cups in Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, and Vermont, four counties in New York and the City of Chicago. Connecticut and Vermont restrict the use of BPA in baby food and infant formula.
Throughout the debate, many legislators abstained from voting, or voted against the bill, pointing to the Department of Toxic Substance Control’s (DTSC) Green Chemistry Initiative as the solution to eliminating BPA, if necessary. This program seeks to create a comprehensive system for regulating chemicals in California. Assemblyman Warren T. Furutani, D-South Los Angeles County, said during a floor speech today that he abstained from voting last year because of DTSC’s program, so he understands the position well. However this year, he’s convinced that California’s children cannot continue to wait when it comes to eliminating BPA.
Argüello of PSR-LA states, “The Green Chemistry Initiative’s Safer Product Regulations are definitely being drafted, but the legislature stood up today and recognized that we can’t let that good idea — whose implementation is far behind — prevent us from taking action on immediate, important measures to protect children’s health.” Sponsors of AB 1879 and SB 519, which set the Green Chemistry Initiative in place, were strong supporters of this bill to eliminate BPA in children’s food and drink containers.
Argüello adds, “This victory sends a strong message that our children’s health should not take a back seat to industry lobbying interests, and the promising programs in our state should not be used as an excuse for inaction. This measure will help protect the more than 500,000 babies that are born in California every year, and help push us towards a better system of regulating all chemicals.”
Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA) informs the medical community and policymakers about toxic threats, teaches them about safer practices, builds coalitions with state-wide and national organizations, and strengthens local community organizations to engage in meaningful public health and environmental advocacy.