Each and every time California’s babies and toddlers take a sip from their bottle or their sippy cup, they are needlessly exposed to a dangerous chemical. I am determined to change that and to protect our children.
I am currently embroiled in a David and Goliath battle to pass SB 797, which would ban the use of the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) in food and drink containers for children three years and younger. SB 797 passed the Senate with the bare minimum of 21 votes amid heavy lobbying by the chemical industry. In the next few weeks my colleagues in the Assembly will have the final say on whether this bill goes to the Governor for his signature.
BPA, an artificial hormone, is widely used in shatter-proof plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and the lining of formula cans. It leaches out of the liquid into the food and drink consumed by babies and young children. More than 200 peer-reviewed studies have linked BPA to a host of health problems, including breast and prostrate cancer, infertility, obesity, and neurological and behavioral changes, including autism and hyperactivity. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical, and it acts like an estrogen in the body. Its repeated ingestion is the equivalent of giving babies daily low-level doses of birth control pills. Because babies are growing and developing, their bodies, brains and organs are particularly susceptible to hormone disruption; they also cannot dispel harmful chemicals as well as adults.
Consumer outrage over the food industry’s continued use of the chemical has created a backlash that is spreading nationally and internationally. Minnesota became the first state in the nation to ban BPA from baby bottles, and Connecticut has since enacted a ban as well. Twenty-one other states and municipalities have bills pending to restrict the use of BPA. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is pursuing legislation on the federal level. Canada has banned the chemical from baby bottles.
Some members of the Assembly have told me they will not support my bill to protect our children because they want to wait and see what happens with California’s Green Chemistry Initiative (GCI) passed by the Legislature last year. I support the green chemistry initiative, which requires the Department of Toxic Substances Control to look comprehensively at potential hazards from chemicals in consumer products and to find safer alternatives. But it may be several years before state officials are ready to review chemical bans.
In the meantime, more than 550,000 babies will be born in California each year and will be exposed to the health risks posed by BPA. We can’t wait.
The powerful chemical industry has mounted an all out assault against my bill to protect our children. Highly paid lobbyists for popular formula companies are trying to kill SB 797 by telling my colleagues that alternative products aren’t available and a ban on BPA would cause a formula shortage. Yet, at the same time these companies are marketing a variety of formula and food containers to parents as “BPA free.”
California has always been a leader on environmental and health issues, but we are already behind other states and countries, which have already banned BPA from children’s products.
Please contact your representative in the Assembly and urge him/her to protect our children from harm by voting for SB 797. Let’s get this dangerous chemical out of our children’s food and drink.