Environmental Working Group
News Conference on Senate Bill 1713
April 7, 2008
My name is Renee Sharp and I am a Senior Analyst with the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization with offices in Oakland and Washington, D.C Sen. Migden’s bill is an important measure that will help protect California’s most valuable resource – our children – from exposure to two dangerous toxins that are found in a variety of children’s products.
BPA is a plasticizer used baby bottles, infant formula cans, and food and beverage storage containers. Infants and children are exposed to BPA when it leaches into food and drinks from bottles and cups made from polycarbonate plastic and from the lining of metal food cans. A Centers for Disease Control study found BPA in 95 percent of people tested. Animal studies have found links between BPA and breast and prostate cancer, infertility, obesity and behavioral changes. Scientists are particularly worried about the risks from exposing babies. Our studies have found that the combined exposures from BPA in forumula and baby bottles pushes a substantial number of infants over the levels of exposure shown to cause reproductive and developmental damage.
Lead has long been known to harm the developing brains and nervous systems of young children. It was restricted in lead and house paint 30 years ago to reduce children’s exposures and risks. It is inexcusable that some children’s products still contain this chemical. But unbelieveably, lead is used in paint applied to toys and to soften plastic toys. Children are exposed when lead dust or paint gets on their hands and they place their fingers or the toys in their mouth. Responsible manufacturers are already using alternatives for BPA and lead, showing that these products can be made without these harmful chemicals and that parents can purchase products for their children that don’t contain these toxic chemicals.
Before the California State Senate Committee on Environmental Quality
Hearing on Senate Bill 1713
April 7, 2008
Mr. Chair, members of the Committee, Senators Migden, and Senator Perata, I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Committee on Senate Bill 1713, which seeks to prohibit Bisphenol A (BPA) and lead, chemicals that are linked to significant adverse health effects, from use in toys and child-care products. My name is Renee Sharp and I am a Senior Analyst with the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization that uses the power of information to protect public health and the environment. EWG has offices in Washington, DC and Oakland, California. The actions proposed in SB 1713 would protect children’s health by reducing their exposures to BPA and lead. These actions are needed because the current federal system of public health protections is badly broken. The current federal system allows chemicals on the market that subsequently end up in children’s bodies at levels that pose health risks. It also fails to require that manufacturers conduct safety testing and prove chemicals are safe for children and other vulnerable populations. It is critical for states to pass measures like SB 1713 to protect children from the most toxic chemicals in consumer products and to lead the way towards sorely needed federal policy reform. It is also important for states to show leadership with policies that protect health like SB 1713 that are responsible, science-based, and precautionary. California cannot win comprehensive public health protection by regulating one product and one chemical at a time. But the state can pass measures that target the most toxic chemicals in products used by the most vulnerable members of its population, its children. With this bill, California would join several other states that have led the way in introducing laws that would limit the use of BPA in children’s products. California’s leadership in this movement will be a vital step toward comprehensive federal reform to protect all children nationwide from chemicals in everyday products that can harm their health.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
BPA is a plasticizer that is used in a variety of consumer products, including baby bottles, canned foods including infant formula cans, and food and beverage storage containers. In recent years, a number of studies have revealed the following concerning facts about this chemical:
- There is strong evidence of widespread exposure to this chemical among the US population. Earlier this year, scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released data showing that they detected BPA in the urine of 93% of more than 2,500 people ages 6 and older that are representative of the US population (Calafat 2008).
- Hundreds of animal studies demonstrate a broad range of toxicities associated with BPA exposure, and many of these studies find that exposure to low levels of BPA are associated with a diverse range of adverse health conditions, including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, obesity, and behavioral changes (vom Saal and Hughes 2005).
- Two separate expert panels sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found concerns with early life exposures to BPA. One of these panels consisted of 38 BPA experts who expressed concerns that current human exposures to this chemical are at or above the levels that cause harm in animal studies (vom Saal 2007). The other expert panel, convened by the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR), found “some concern” that infant exposure could harm brain development and adversely affect behavior (CERHR 2007). The chairman of the CERHR panel indicated during a press conference that parents would be wise to avoid infant exposure to BPA, given the outstanding issues regarding its potential harm (Hileman 2007).
Infants and children are exposed to BPA via bottles and cups made from polycarbonate plastic. Studies consistently find BPA leaching from plastic bottles into liquids at levels ranging from below 1 part per billion for liquids at room temperature, up to nearly 8 parts per billion when the bottle is filled with liquid at boiling temperature (Hoa et al. 2008, EWG 2007). At a typical level of about 1 part per billion, EWG analyses show that 5 percent of bottle-fed infants would be exposed within a factor of 10 to levels linked in laboratory studies to altered testosterone levels, neurodevelopmental problems, and other permanent damage to male and female reproductive systems (EWG 2007, Howdeshell et al. 1999, Honma et al. 2002). Infant formula is also contaminated with BPA, which leaches from the lining of metal food cans. The combination of BPA in formula and from baby bottles pushes a substantial number of infants over the levels of exposure shown to cause reproductive and developmental damage (EWG 2007). SB 1713 would prohibit the manufacture, distribution, or sale of children’s products that contain BPA, thereby decreasing exposure among infants and children. A few manufacturers have already started to offer BPA-free baby bottles, teethers, and dishes due to health concerns; this movement illustrates that in many of its current uses, BPA can easily be substituted with safer alternatives. Effective legislation, such as SB 1713, would force mainstream manufacturers to adopt these same practices, thereby benefiting not just a select group of children.
Lead has long been recognized as particularly harmful to the rapidly developing brains and nervous systems of young children. Although average blood levels of lead in American children have dropped dramatically in the last 20 years, the emerging threat of lead in children’s toys and other products is very concerning. Lead is used in children’s toys in two primary capacities: in paint that is applied to toys and to soften plastic toys. When lead is used to soften plastic, it can break down into lead dust when exposed to heat from sunlight or cleaning products (CDC 2007). Children are exposed to lead from toys when lead dust or paint that contains lead gets on their hands and they place their fingers in their mouth and when they put the contaminated toys directly into their mouth (CDC 2007). The adverse health effects associated with lead exposure have been well established for years – it is inexcusable that there are still children’s products that contain this toxic chemical available on the market. In the words of the CDC:
“Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead. The goal is to prevent exposure to children before they are harmed.” Children’s toys and other products can easily be made without lead; there is no benefit to adding lead to children’s products that can justify the unnecessary risk to children’s health. SB 1713 seeks to guarantee that parents can purchase products that their children use on a daily basis that won’t contain this toxic chemical. SB 1713 is a science-based, commonsense, precautionary bill that would help fill current gaping holes in our system of federal health protections. There is no place in children’s products for chemicals like lead, which is widely recognized to be toxic to children, and BPA, which is suspected to play a part in a number of adverse health conditions ranging from breast and prostate cancer to obesity. SB 1713 would protect California’s children from these specific chemicals in common consumer products. California’s leadership on this issue is important, to ensure that parents across the state have safer products for their children and to help build toward federal policy reforms that would require that all products and all chemicals be proven safe for all children and others who are vulnerable, before they are sold. California joins a selects group of states that have chosen to be proactive in recognizing the toxicity of these chemicals and in protecting the health of children. We thank Ms. Migden, Mr. Perata, and the committee for their commitment to protecting children and other vulnerable populations and look forward to working with them to pass legislation that substantially advances public health protections from chemicals by banning BPA and lead in toys and child-care products in California. Thank you.
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