09/25/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

California Battles to Ban BPA from Baby Bottles, Sippy Cups and Infant Formula

BPA: From Plastics and Cans to Your Body

You may not be familiar with the chemical bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, but there is an excellent chance that BPA is very familiar with you. BPA, a hormone-disrupting toxin, is widely used in plastics and epoxy resins, including those commonly used to make baby bottles and "sippy cups," and to line metal cans, including those containing infant formula.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that 93% of Americans test positive for BPA, and children have higher levels than adults. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that the most common exposure route for humans to BPA is through chemical leaching from containers into food and drink, including canned infant formula and polycarbonate baby bottles. The NIH finds that BPA exposure in infants may have negative impacts on brain development and behavior, and leads to early onset of puberty, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Other studies have linked BPA exposure with obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Canada, Connecticut and Minnesota have already banned BPA in children's feeding products.

California Bill Would Protect our Most Vulnerable Population from BPA

California State Senator Fran Pavley stood on a playground near downtown Los Angeles on August 19, 2009 to tell a receptive gathering of young parents, babies in arms, about the bill she authored to remove BPA from their babies' food and drink.

"This is a David and Goliath fight between babies and the powerful chemical industry," Senator Pavley told the crowd. While offering to exchange toxic baby bottles with BPA-free bottles, Senator Pavley said, "We hope parents here today will not only take home a toxin-free bottle to their children, we hope they will also take the message to California lawmakers that they should put the health and future of our children before special interests."

Senator Pavley was joined by Dr. Harvey Karp, a leading pediatrics expert and best-selling author of "The Happiest Baby on the Block." Dr. Karp cited the "Precautionary Principle" as warranted especially in the case of known toxins and children: "Chemicals should be guilty until proven innocent. If there is even a strong suspicion that a chemical is entering our bodies and could be detrimental, it should not be allowed." After pointing out that studies questioning the effects of BPA have been funded by the chemical companies, he urged the public to take heed of the growing evidence from un-biased sources that show the dangers associated with BPA: "Waiting until the evidence is 100% in agreement is foolhardy. Twenty years from now will be too late for your kids."

After citing a Canadian study that found 90% of soft drinks and canned juices have BPA contamination, and that all "microwavable plastics" leach BPA, Dr. Karp said, "Little by little, this BPA in our food is affecting our cells. Children may be only 25% of our population, but they are 100% of our future."

Dr. Karp linked BPA to phthalates, also endocrine-disrupters, that were recently banned in the United States from baby toys: "Even tiny amounts of these hormone twisters affect the fetus and child. Hormones are signals in our bodies that direct when development should start and stop. If something messes with the signals, especially in the fetus, developing tissue is less healthy, leading to a host of future problems from diabetes, obesity, and heart or liver disease, to cancer. Over 90% of us have these chemicals in our bodies. We are the lab rats. This is just one tiny step toward protecting our most vulnerable population."

Environmental Justice: BPA-Free Baby Bottles are Plentiful at Whole Foods, but not to the Poor

Dr. Karp's support for Senator Pavley's bill was echoed by Dr. Linda Tigner-Weekes, Chief Medical Officer for St. Johns Well Child and Family Center and a noted advocate for children's health: "I have been in the trenches a long time. Anything that affects the brain, affects who you are." She cited a study in a Cincinnati prison that found high lead levels in the inmates: "Those inmates were exposed to lead when the information about that toxin was 'not quite solid.' When [the inmates] were babies and toddlers, the chemical companies were saying it was OK to have lead in paint."

Regarding BPA, Dr. Tigner-Weekes made a passionate plea to the crowd, "How many of you want your kid to be the guinea pig? Chemical companies manufacture their own papers to support their products. They will do anything for the bottom line: money. They dump their inferior products in the poor neighborhoods where alternatives are not available. It is expensive to be poor. And guess who benefits at our expense? The companies that make these inferior products."

California Assembly Nears Final Vote

The fight is down to the wire. SB 797 has passed the Senate and all the committees of the Assembly. The final vote on the Assembly floor must take place before September 11, 2009 when the legislative session concludes.

Californians, contact your Assembly Member now to urge the protection of our children by voting yes on SB 797 so this dangerous chemical will be removed from our children's food and drink.