Chemical Lobby Gets Its Way in U.S. Senate

(202) 667-6982
For Immediate Release: 
Friday, November 19, 2010

Washington, D.C. – For several years now, Environmental Working Group (EWG) has been warning of the risks associated with bisphenol A (BPA) – especially the BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and cans of infant formula. EWG has also been a leader in trying to get state and federal agencies to regulate this hazardous chemical.

Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), there was briefly a deal this week – after months of negotiations – to include some regulation of BPA in a food safety bill that will probably pass the Senate soon after Thanksgiving. The deal, agreed to by leading Republicans and trade associations, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association, would have banned BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups in six months, directed FDA to finalize its assessment of the safety of BPA by December 2012 and protected the right of states to take even stronger action.

Then the American Chemistry Council (ACC) swooped in with last minute objections. The Council’s lobbyists whispered in enough Republican senators’ ears, and the agreement was scrapped. The chemical makers’ trade group has spent millions of dollars over the last few years to fight regulation of BPA across the country.

Despite the Council’s richly funded efforts, environmental and health advocates have had successes on the BPA front. At least seven states have now passed laws to regulate the chemical in one way or another. Canada has declared BPA toxic and banned it in baby bottles; Denmark and Germany have also acted.

And governments aren’t the only ones taking action – companies including Philips Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow have agreed to stop making baby bottles with BPA. Earlier this year General Mills announced that its next harvest of Muir Glen Tomatoes will be packed in BPA-free cans, and Heinz has removed BPA from cans it sells in Australia, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Major retailers including CVS, Kmart, Walmart, Toys R Us and Babies R Us have taken BPA products off their shelves or are in the process of doing so.

“If all these governments, companies and retailers can get by without BPA, why does the leading industry trade group continue to insist it’s needed? Unfortunately, the chemical industry is more concerned with protecting its bottom lines than the public health,” said EWG Senior Legislative Analyst Jason Rano.

On Wednesday night (Nov. 17), Senator Feinstein took to the Senate floor to excoriate the American Chemistry Council. She closed by saying, “The battle is joined, and once I start I do not stop… we will fight another day.”

“We echo those sentiments,” Rano added. “We’re disappointed, but we won’t be deterred in our efforts to get this dangerous chemical off the market.”

The many groups that worked tirelessly on this effort along with EWG include the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Consumers Union, U.S. PIRG, and Breast Cancer Fund.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment.