Posted by Richard Wiles in BPA
on June 15, 2009 | 13 responses
It’s been quite a ride with the fight against the toxic plastics chemical bisphenol A (BPA)– David vs. Goliath, public interest advocates and a handful of scientists pushing back against lobbyists and dealmakers, shady government contractors, bogus science, backroom strategy sessions.
The cascade of disclosures about the dangers of BPA, a synthetic estrogen used to toughen polycarbonate plastics and epoxy, has inspired an extraordinary convergence of events: a nationwide groundswell in advocacy, a media drumbeat, Congressional investigations, a consumer revolt, visible shifts in corporate behavior and a slew of state legislative proposals.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve witnessed startling developments on the BPA front:
- Sketchy industry contractors – Does anyone remember Sciences International, the company engaged to run the government safety review of BPA while working for BPA manufacturers Dow and BASF? SI was finally fired in April 2007, under pressure from Congressman Henry Waxman, who had launched a pointed inquiry into government conflict-of- interest policies —or, more accurately, lack of same.
- Congressional investigations – When called to account by Rep. John Dingell, D-MI, then chair of the House Energy and Commerce committee, infant formula makers uniformly responded that they had no idea how much BPA is in their formula. Yet, according to tests by EWG and the federal Food and Drug Administration, more BPA leaches into infant formula from epoxy can linings than from polycarbonate baby bottles.
- Government collusion with industry – The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has made public internal government documents showing that FDA officials e-mailed industry hacks for advice on how to debunk independent scientific research on BPA, even before the studies at issue were published.
- Documents revealing that Coca-Cola, Del Monte, Crown, Alcoa and other of food processing and chemical industry lobbyists plan to spend $500,000 to scare pregnant women and minorities into thinking that no BPA means no baby food — and perhaps no canned food at all.
And we’ve seen some real progress:
- Limited BPA bans have been enacted in Canada, Minnesota and Connecticut, Suffolk County New York, and Chicago. Similar measures have been introduced in the U.S. Congress and 20 more states.
- Six major baby bottle companies agreed to stop making BPA-based plastic baby bottles.
- Major retailers, led by Wal-Mart, have pledged not to sell baby bottles made with BPA.
- Sunoco, the Philadelphia-based petrochemical company, has stopped selling BPA for fabrication into children’s products.
When an oil giant like Sunoco thinks BPA is too dangerous for children, you’d think government health officials would take notice.
But they haven’t. Not so far, anyway. BPA remains in cans of infant formula and other kid favorites like canned soup, mac and cheese and ravioli.
EWG is sponsoring legislation in California that would prohibit BPA in all products targeted to children under three years of age, including infant formula, and we have testified in favor of BPA restrictions in Maryland, Illinois and other states. We’ll continue to urge state legislators to take action where the federal government has abjectly failed to protect the public because despite the important victories in reducing BPA exposure, the reality is there’s still plenty of BPA in our environment.
The greatest lesson of the BPA saga is how it casts in sharp relief the flaws in our chemical regulatory system.
Until we fundamentally transform the system we’ll be trapped on the treadmill of piecemeal progress, repeating the BPA debacle over and over.