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End Game: The Petitions to Ban BPA

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BPA doesn't belong in our bodies, but the plastic industry made a lot of money putting it there. Now we want it out of our bodies, and out of our environment -- along with the rest of the single-use plastic that is strangling our earth, suffocating our oceans and poisoning our bodies.

The month of March looks to be pivotal in the fight to outlaw Bisphenol A (BPA), as pressure mounts from all quarters, taking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to task, and demanding it ban all use of BPA in the United States.

The most recent public petition to outlaw BPA comes from the Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC), which boasts an influential list of members and a huge social network of passionate supporters from around the world.

Already signing the PPC's petition to outlaw BPA are such notable people as: Martha Stewart, Hillary Swank, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Ed Begley, Jr., Rosanna Arquette, Jeff Bridges, Amy Smart, Fran Drescher, Jeanne Rizzo, Mario Batali, Sylvia Earle and Wallace J. Nichols.

Anyone concerned about the effects of BPA exposure on their health, the health of their children or on the environment, is encouraged to sign the PPC's online petition and have their voice heard in this very public call to outlaw BPA. The "FDA must ban BPA" petition can be signed here: www.change.org/petitions/fda-must-ban-bpa

The PPC's petition is addressed to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, and makes it very clear that the time to act is now, that the FDA's past pattern of non-responsive inaction and delay on the BPA issue will not be stood for as the present discussion moves forward.

As scientists continue to study the effects of BPA on humans, the FDA is finding that it is the one under the microscope -- the microscope of public scrutiny, that is -- and what we are seeing is troubling.

When we as a society become aware of a health danger, it's not enough just to be aware. We have to act and we rightly expect the FDA to act on our behalf and err on the side of public health -- not corporate profit.

While consumer demand has already driven baby bottles and sippy cups containing BPA from store shelves; the threat of BPA exposure from food packaging remains.

So why isn't BPA already outlawed by the FDA? Why isn't it banned in the United States? It's a good question and one the FDA needs to answer -- and answer soon!

In October 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a petition with the FDA requesting a ban on BPA in food packaging, food containers and any material likely to come in contact with food. When the FDA did not respond within 180 days as required by law, the NRDC stopped waiting patiently and sued the FDA in 2010, asking the court to require the agency to respond.

Now, 41 months later, and subject to the terms of the December 2011 settlement between the NRDC and the FDA, the FDA is required to respond to NRDC's petition no later than March 31, 2012. The agreement, approved by U.S. District Judge Barbara S. Jones in New York, said the FDA must issue a final decision, not a tentative response.

It's hard to imagine any justification for a 41-month delay by the Food and Drug Administration on this issue of public health and safety; and it's just not acceptable for the FDA to feign ignorance of the growing consensus amongst the scientific community, industry and society at large that BPA needs to go.

There comes a time when a government bureaucracy needs to step aside if it's unwilling -- or unable -- to do what society demands. In the case of BPA, the FDA has not acted in a timely manner or in the best interest of the public, so the public is acting in its own best self-interest and petitioning the FDA to ensure that BPA is permanently banned.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Plastic Pollution Coalition aren't the only ones petitioning the FDA to act on BPA.

On March 16, 2012, Congressman Ed Markey(D-Mass.) submitted three petitions of his own to the Food and Drug Administration calling for a ban on BPA: infant formula and baby food packaging BPA petition; reusable food and beverage containers BPA petition; and canned food packaging BPA petition.

Congressman Markey's petitions come on the heels of the petition filed by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) on February 17, 2012. The ACC's petition proposes that the food additive regulations be amended to no longer provide for the use of BPA in infant feeding bottles and spill-proof cups designed to help train babies to drink from cups, because these uses have been abandoned.

Knowledge is enlightening and action is empowering; the two together form a powerful engine for change. We don't know everything about the health effects of BPA yet, but we know enough, and we suspect a lot, and we are right to act.

It's shameful to think of all the past BPA exposure to infants and toddlers through their baby bottles and sippy cups years ago, the long-term effects of which we will surely learn one day, and when we do, we can only hope we acted in time and erred on the side of caution.

What harm has come more recently from the 41-month delay by the FDA in responding to the NRDC petition and subsequent lawsuit remains to be seen.

What is certain, however, is that these combined petitions by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Congressman Markey, the American Chemistry Council, and now the Plastic Pollution Coalition, mark the end game for outlawing and banning BPA in the United States.

We'll all live healthier lives because of it.

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