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Calif. Senate Fails to Protect Babies from Toxic Bisphenol A

Subjected to heavy industry lobbying against bill, Senate misses opportunity for Calif. to join growing movement to restrict BPA exposure

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 1, 2010
CONTACT: Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

The Breast Cancer Fund is deeply disappointed that the California state Senate failed to pass SB 797. This measure, sponsored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Santa Monica, and the Breast Cancer Fund, Environmental Working Group and Physicians for Social Responsibility- Los Angeles, would have banned bisphenol A, or BPA, from food and drink containers designed for children ages 3 and younger. BPA, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to breast cancer and other serious health problems, is used in some plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, as well as in the lining of infant formula cans. States across the country, as well as leading manufacturers and retailers, are eliminating the toxic chemical from children’s products, making the Senate’s decision seem unusually regressive for a state known for innovation and leadership in environmental health.

The Senate’s failure to pass the bill may be best understood in light of the prolonged and well-funded lobbying campaign by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Industry meeting notes leaked last year documented plans to thwart the California legislation by “befriending people that are able to manipulate the legislative process.” The notes also outlined plans to use “fear tactics” to scare the public into opposing efforts to restrict the chemical’s use. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that industry spent an estimated $5 million against the California legislation. The Breast Cancer Fund laments that these tactics appear to have been successful and is frustrated that big money trumped the health of babies and toddlers.

More than 200 scientific studies show that BPA exposure, particularly during infancy, is associated with a wide range of adverse health effects in later life. In addition to breast cancer, BPA has been linked to prostate cancer, birth defects, infertility in men, early puberty in girls, diabetes and obesity. A main route of human exposure is through the leaching of BPA from food and beverage containers. Once in food, BPA moves quickly into the body. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable because their bodies are still developing.

While it’s sobering that our Senate did not act to protect the millions of California babies and toddlers who are exposed to BPA every day, the fact remains that the tide has turned against this toxic chemical, and other states, Congress, and innovative companies are leading the way. BPA has been banned from baby bottles and children’s sippy cups in Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, Vermont and New York. Connecticut and Vermont restrict the use of BPA in baby-food and infant-formula packaging. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will offer an amendment to the Food Safety Modernization Act that will ban BPA in all infant food and beverage containers.

In the marketplace, chemical manufacturer Sunoco refuses to sell BPA to companies intending to use it to make food and water containers for children under 3. Leading infant formula companies are beginning to use BPA-free packaging, six baby bottle manufacturers have pledged to stop using the chemical, and retailers including CVS, Kmart, Safeway, Toys R Us and Walmart have announced they will stop selling BPA-containing baby bottles. Still, many BPA-containing products remain on store shelves, unlabeled, which puts unsuspecting consumers at risk.

A growing number of scientists, legislators and businesses are joining with the public to say that BPA has no place in children’s food products. Now, California must catch up.

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The Breast Cancer Fund is the leading national organization working to identify and eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. www.breastcancerfund.org