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Despite Overwhelming Science, Calif. EPA Fails to Declare Bisphenol A Toxic

Manufacturers, retailers, legislators moving to restrict exposure to BPA; Calif. EPA fails to act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 15, 2009
Contact: Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246 cell, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

OAKLAND, Calif. – Today, amidst a backdrop of unprecedented industry, state and federal action to restrict the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA), the California Environmental Protection Agency failed to add the chemical to the state’s official list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects.

“There is a growing consensus on BPA,” said Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund. “Retailers are refusing to sell baby bottles that contain BPA, manufacturers are moving toward safer production and scientists across the board are saying we have enough evidence of harm to act. Yet the California EPA ignored this consensus and chose to listen to chemical industry rhetoric.”

BPA is a synthetic estrogen used in hard polycarbonate plastic food and beverage containers, including some water and baby bottles and sippy cups, as well as in the epoxy lining of food cans. BPA leaches into food and beverages and moves quickly into the body. More than 200 scientific studies show that BPA exposure, particularly during gestation and early infancy, is associated with a wide range of adverse health effects including breast cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls, diabetes and obesity.

The state’s chemicals list, commonly referred to as the Prop. 65 list because it is the result of the 1986 Proposition 65 Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act, includes chemicals known by the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

At a public meeting today in Oakland, Calif., a state scientific committee heard comments from the chemical industry, which defended BPA, and from scientists, doctors and concerned parents who emphasized the growing body of scientific evidence linking even very small doses of the chemical—parts per billion or trillion—to irreversible harm. The committee then made its final decision not to list BPA.

“I’m disappointed the state let the opportunity to protect Californians from this terribly harmful chemical slip away,” said Nancy Bellen from Santa Rosa, Calif., a breast cancer survivor who testified before the committee. “I’m heartened, though, that efforts to limit BPA exposure are moving forward nationally and internationally. A chemical linked to breast cancer, as BPA is, should not be in our food or in our bodies.”

This is not the first time this committee, with responsibility for listing reproductive toxicants, has failed to list toxic chemicals. In fact, the committee, which meets twice a year, has listed only one chemical in the past three years. Its sister committee in charge of listing carcinogens has listed one chemical in the past five years. The committee is made up of political appointees who do not necessarily have the research and science background best-suited to interpret cutting-edge science, as evidenced by this decision.

Legislators, manufacturers and retailers, however, are already acting based on the strong scientific evidence of BPA’s toxicity. Currently, the California Assembly is considering the Toxics-Free Babies and Toddlers Act (SB 797), which would ban BPA from food and drink containers designed for children ages three and younger. The bill, which already passed the Senate, is set to be voted on in August. There has also been a flurry of legislative activity across the country. This spring, Minnesota and Connecticut banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, as did Suffolk County in New York and the city of Chicago. Congress and 20 other states and municipalities have considered or are considering legislation to regulate the chemical.

In the marketplace, Sunoco acknowledged health concerns when it announced in March that it will sell BPA only to companies that guarantee the chemical will not be used to make children’s food and water containers. Leading infant formula companies are beginning to use packaging that doesn’t contain BPA, six baby bottle manufacturers have pledged to stop using the chemical, and retailers including CVS, Kmart, Safeway, Sears, Toys R Us, Wal-Mart, Kroger, Wegmans Foods and Whole Foods have announced they are phasing out BPA-containing baby bottles.

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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