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On BPA: Protecting the Bottom Line Over Public Health

Friday, November 19, 2010
By Jason Rano, EWG Senior Legislative Analyst

For several years now, we at Environmental Working Group have been warning of the risks associated with bisphenol A (BPA) -- especially the BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups and cans of infant formula. And for years, EWG has been a leader in trying to get states and federal agencies to regulate this hazardous chemical.

Thanks to the tireless work and dogged determination of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her tremendous staff, there was 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 rights of states to take even stronger action.
Was it everything EWG might have hoped for? No, but it would have been a great step forward for all Americans, especially parents and young children.
Then, at the last minute, the American Chemistry Council (ACC) swooped in with objections to the deal. The Council's lobbyists whispered in enough Republican senators' ears, and the agreement was scrapped. I guess we shouldn't be surprised. 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. At least seven states have now passed laws to regulate BPA in one way or another. Canada has declared BPA toxic and banned it in baby bottles and sippy cups. Denmark and Germany have also acted.
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 line than our public health.
On Wednesday night, 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. 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 -- including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Consumers Union, U.S. PIRG, Breast Cancer Fund and others -- won't be deterred either. The power of consumers like you demanding safe products and voting with your pocketbooks will ultimately force government and industry to take protective measures -- for all our sakes.