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Pre-Polluted Babies Congress must act to protect infants, moms from toxic plastics chemical BPA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2009
Contact: Shannon Coughlin, Breast Cancer Fund, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org, Bill Walker, 510-759-9911, bw.deadline@gmail.com

SAN FRANCISCO – In the wake of the first evidence American babies are born contaminated with a plastics chemical linked to birth defects and breast cancer, Congress must act immediately to protect infants and mothers.

Both the House and Senate are considering bills to ban bisphenol A, or BPA, in food and beverage containers. The bills, by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, would protect pregnant women, their children and other consumers from a hormone-disrupting chemical that is used in hard plastic baby bottles and food containers, and the lining of food cans.

“More than 200 studies show that even tiny doses of BPA can harm the developing fetus,” said Janet Nudelman, policy director of the Breast Cancer Fund. “Connecticut and Minnesota have banned it in baby bottles and other children's products, leading U.S. manufacturers are replacing BPA with safer cost-effective alternatives, and many major retailers have pulled it from their shelves. It's time for Congress to catch up with the states and the marketplace and protect all Americans."

A new study by the Environmental Working Group found BPA in 9 of the 10 umbilical cord blood samples tested. Animal studies previously showed that BPA can pass though the placenta from mothers to their offspring, but this is the first evidence U.S. infants are born pre-polluted with the chemical.

“This is not surprising, but it’s alarming,” said Janet Gray, Ph.D., director of the Environmental Risks and Breast Cancer project at Vassar College. “We've known that over 90 percent of American adults and children over the age of 6 have BPA in their bodies. Now we have proof that babies in the U.S. are born with BPA already in their blood. What more evidence do we need to act?”

BPA is one of the most pervasive chemicals in modern life. It is the chemical building block for polycarbonate plastic and can be found in baby bottles, water bottles and food storage containers. It also used in epoxy resins that coat the lining of metal food cans, including infant formula cans.

“This study proves newborns are exposed to BPA in the womb,” said Anila Jacob, M.D., EWG senior scientist and co-author of the report. “After they are born, they’ll encounter more BPA by drinking from a bottle, drinking canned infant formula and, eventually, eating canned food like ravioli and chicken noodle soup.”

Other studies have linked BPA exposure to a staggering array of health problems, including breast and prostate cancer, obesity, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, altered development of the brain and immune system, lowered sperm counts and early-onset puberty.

The Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2009 by Feinstein and Markey would ban BPA in all reusable food and beverage containers, such as baby bottles, sports water bottles and food storage containers, and all food and beverage packaging including canned food, infant formula, and soda and water bottles. If a manufacturer can show that there are no alternatives to using BPA in a container, it must be labeled to warn consumers.

Legislation to regulate BPA-containing products has been introduced in 30 states and localities. The chemical industry, represented by the powerful American Chemistry Council lobbying group, has fought a pitched battle to block attempts to restrict BPA.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is finalizing a safety reassessment of BPA, which was due for release this week. A previous FDA study of BPA's safety was widely criticized for its reliance on only a few chemical-industry-funded studies that found the chemical safe.

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