In case you missed the flurry of recent news, scientists have serious doubts about the safety of BPA (bisphenol A). And that's alarming because this hormonally active chemical contaminates the body of virtually every single American.
BPA was first created as a synthetic estrogen, and only later was it discovered to make hard clear plastic (polycarbonate and epoxy resins). Today, billions of pounds of BPA are used in thousands of every day products: from restaurant receipts to toilet paper to the slippery lining of canned food and soda...and infant formula. It's also the plastic in shatterproof drinking tumblers and baby bottles.
The problem is, BPA leaches off the wall of the cans and containers and into our mouths - and our babies' mouths - and into our bodies with every gulp.
In 2007, the CDC reported that over 93 percent of Americans have BPA floating through our bodies. That's a concern because BPA is an endocrine disruptor chemical. That means that even miniscule concentrations of this compound can pervert the normal development of hormonally sensitive tissues, like breast, testicles and brain.
Hundreds of studies on laboratory animals reveal that BPA promotes obesity, diabetes, testicular cancer, breast cancer-like changes (and resistance to life saving chemotherapy) and even reduce sperm counts. This is very worrisome because, over the past 20 years, scientists have noticed rising rates of these problems in people all around the world. In the recently launched National Children's Study, America's monumental evaluation of the adverse health effects of common chemicals, BPA is one of the suspect compounds being evaluated for possible association with autism, cancer, learning disorders, etc.
Newborn and infant exposure to BPA poses an especially disturbing threat during windows of vulnerability. These periods, as short as hours and days, are times when a baby's developing body is exquisitely sensitive to chemical damage. Even minute exposures, during those periods, have the potential of creating lifetime problems.
The National Toxicology Program voiced concern about the "effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A." The Endocrine Society, a group of our nation's top scientists dedicated to hormone research, recently warned that BPA and other hormone-twisting chemicals "have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology." The Society went on to say that it intends to lobby "for regulation seeking to decrease human exposure" to BPA--an unprecedented move by this 93-year-old institution.
The scientific evidence is broad, growing and convincing. We need to act to protect our citizens from this harmful chemical. That is why California State Senator Fran Pavley crafted SB 797 offering a protective shield for California's most at risk-citizens, its babies. This modest bill has passed the Senate and will soon be voted on by the Assembly. And passage is far from certain. A phalanx of corporate lobbyists from chemical companies has swooped down on Sacramento to misinform and pressure legislators. They are crying their same tired, old song: "It will ruin the economy, it will ruin jobs." That they used to try to fool the public when it came to removing DDT, asbestos, PCBs and many other toxic chemicals.
Of course, their claims are ridiculous. Of all the billions of pounds of BPA in common use, Senator Pavley's bill only phases out only a very tiny fraction: that used in food and drink containers designed for children ages three and younger. Furthermore, removing BPA from these products will likely create jobs and boost the economy by building the market for the safe alternatives to BPA that are already on the market.
Voting for this bill is common sense. In fact, Minnesota, Connecticut and Canada have already enacted similar BPA reductions. Even Chicago has stood up to protect its children. Now it's time for California to act.
Working hard, cooking good dinners, coaching soccer games are the jobs of parents. But, it's not the job of parents to have to inspect every single item they buy in the store for toxic contamination. Keeping unsafe chemicals out of baby formula is the government's job. California will set a great example to the rest of the nation by passing SB 797.
Dr. Harvey Karp is a world renowned child development expert and America's most read pediatrician. Creator of the bestselling DVDs and books, The Happiest Baby on the Block and The Happiest Toddler on the Block, his work has literally revolutionized our understanding of the needs of young children.
The Happiest Baby teaches how parents can calm even the fussiest babies in minutes...or less...and help any baby sleep an extra one to three hours per night. The Happiest Toddler teaches a new way to communicate with children eight months to five years of age that can quickly prevent 50-90 percent of tantrums and boost a toddler's patience and cooperation in just days!
Dr. Karp’s work is taught in hundreds of hospitals, clinics and military bases across the US and has been featured times on shows like Dr. Phil, Larry King Live, The View and Good Morning ... no wonder the NY Times celebrated his work by proclaiming "Roll over Dr. Spock!"
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