After five years and millions of dollars spent by the chemical industry to lobby against protecting California's children from baby bottles and sippy cups containing the dangerous chemical Bisphenol-A, known as BPA, the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act or AB 1319 has been sent to Governor Jerry Brown for a signature. We hope that he will sign this ban into law, as California lags behind ten other states, as well as Canada, China, and the European Union in banning BPA in baby bottles.
BPA is widely used in shatter-proof plastic baby bottles, sippy cups, and the lining of formula cans and leaches out of these containers into food. Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, has long warned of the dangers of BPA in food containers, particularly for fetuses, infants, and small children. Our precautionary advice to consumers is based on more than 200 scientific studies that show clear links between tiny amounts of exposure to BPA and subsequent increased risk of cancer, diabetes, reproductive, neurological, and developmental disorders.
Studies show that BPA is in the bloodstreams of more than 90 percent of the population at levels that have shown harm in animal studies. And food appears to be a primary source of exposure. Children may metabolize BPA more slowly than adults and may therefore be particularly vulnerable to BPA, which has also been linked to early puberty, breast cancer, childhood obesity, autism, and hyperactivity.
Because of the existing and growing body of scientific knowledge about the health risks of BPA to consumers, the American Medical Association recently announced support for a ban on BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups and called on the industry to take action to stop producing them.
There's also a growing industry movement against BPA. Many of the largest manufacturers of baby bottles no longer make their bottles with the chemical. In addition, major retailers are in the process of phasing out selling baby bottles with BPA, or have already done so. Moreover, chemical giant and BPA manufacturer Sunoco, acknowledging the safety concerns about BPA, announced it would restrict the sales of the toxin for use in baby bottles and food containers for children under three.
The Department of Toxic Substances, which oversees California's Green Chemistry Initiative, slated to regulate chemicals in the state, recognizes the importance of banning BPA from children's food and drink containers immediately with this legislation. The Green Chemistry program has become bogged down with long delays and will not be functional soon enough to protect the 550,000 babies born in California each year from the health risks of BPA.
The Department's letter of support for this BPA ban states[PDF], "In light of the information available regarding the potential health effects of bisphenol A and the regulatory actions already taken by a number of other states and countries, DTSC believes it is prudent to restrict the use of bisphenol A in a narrow range of products such as children's infant bottles and cups."
The writing is on the wall: Harmless alternatives to BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups are in demand. With the signing of this bill, California can signal that big chemical company money cannot trump the health of babies and toddlers.