Last week I realized (again) how hard it is for citizens to protect their children when corporate interests are at stake. It’s a maddeningly familiar equation:
Threat to children +
Overwhelming constituent support +
Solid science +
Well-financed industry opposition with fear tactics =
= Industry victory
Time and time again. Here’s what happened this time:
The California state Assembly failed to pass SB 797, a bill which would have banned the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from use in children’s sippy cups, infant formula and other food and drink products designed for children aged three and younger (see how Assembly members voted).
Support, support, and more support for SB 797
More than 200 scientific studies have linked BPA, a synthetic estrogen used in many hard plastics, to reproductive disorders, prostate and breast cancer, autism, birth defects, infertility in men, early puberty in girls and other serious health risks.
Support for SB 797 included a broad range of concerned parents, scientists, physicians, public interest and health organizations, including CHANGE, Breast Cancer Fund, Environmental Working Group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, California Women Infants and Children (WIC), Moms Rising, the California Teachers Association and the California Labor Federation.
According to Breast Cancer Fund Policy Manager Gretchen Lee Salter, SB 797 failed to secure the necessary votes despite overwhelming support in favor of the ban because well-funded BPA industry lobbyists were successful in targeting legislators, swaying the vote against protecting the health of California’s children.
Surprise! Industry “isn’t shy” about using fear tactics
Director of the California Office of EWG Renee Sharp (pictured above, right), “The chemical and pharmaceutical industries weren’t shy in using the fear tactics they hatched behind closed doors here in California. Unfortunately, their influence, misinformation and outright deceptions carried the day.”
According to Sharp, Connecticut banned BPA with similar legislation last Spring by a nearly unanimous and bipartisan vote, before the BPA industry had fully developed and implemented their PR campaign.
A recent BCF press release reported that BPA industry meeting notes leaked in May 2009 revealed plans to sway the California legislature by “befriending people that are able to manipulate the legislative process.” The notes also detailed their strategies to use “fear tactics” to scare the public into opposing efforts to ban the chemical. These tactics appear to have been successful—at least for now, as the bill could be taken up again by the Assembly as early as January 2010.
“It’s sobering that our Assembly did not act to protect the millions of California babies and toddlers who are exposed to BPA every day,” said Salter. “This is a blow to kids’ safety, as well as to scientific integrity. Now we must work to ensure they do the right thing in the future.”
Let’s make sure that BPA-free future isn’t very far off.