10/06/2011 04:56 pm ET | Updated Dec 06, 2011

A Landmark Day in the Life of a Toxic Chemical: Interview With Ken Cook of the EWG

You've heard about BPA in the news for years, and recently you have even seen product labels that declare, "BPA Free!" But somehow BPA is still a dangerous presence in our world and is found in more than 90 percent of all Americans. It has been publicly linked to a host of health problems including early puberty, cancer, infertility, obesity and hyperactivity. New research has found evidence that BPA can interfere with the effectiveness of breast cancer medications. And still the federal government has not taken any action regulating this hormone-disrupter.

The good news is that several states have taken the lead and banned BPA. California has just followed suit this week with legislation requiring the elimination of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups made or sold after July 1, 2013.

I had the privilege of speaking with one of my very own heroes this morning about the ban. Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group, has lead the fight to protect our children from untested, undisclosed chemicals for the last two decades. I asked him about the importance and potential impact of this week's news and here is what he had to say:

"The chemical industry spent millions of dollars trying to kill the BPA legislation that Gov. Brown signed into law, and that's one very important way to measure the law's significance -- quite apart from the fact that because it is the nation's largest and most influential marketplace, what happens in California definitely does not stay in California. The California law will eliminate BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups across the nation.

Chemical companies are increasingly sensitive to the fact that the safety of their products is being questioned literally daily by an unprecedented flood of new research from independent scientists and government agencies. And as more consumers have tuned in to this emerging evidence, in many cases because of worrisome links between toxic industrial chemicals and health problems ranging from asthma to ADHD to cancer, the new science is having a huge impact in the marketplace.

I was shopping for kitchen gizmos the other day and I was stunned by the number of products labeled "BPA-free" or "No BPA." Anyone who has strolled through a baby store recently will notice the same thing.

The marketplace is racing ahead of legislators and regulators to identify -- and eliminate -- chemicals that have been linked to toxic health effects. The new California law will accelerate the elimination of BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups for everyone in California and far beyond, not just those of us who are fortunate to be informed about, and in a position to afford, the BPA-free products that have proliferated in recent years.

Chemical companies are deeply worried about these market developments, and they spring into defensive action whenever legislation comes along that reinforces and politicizes these consumer concerns. It took five years for EWG and other groups to win this battle -- which is nothing more, and nothing less, than keeping pace with what the public is demanding: an end to toxic chemicals in consumer products that end up in our bodies before we know if they are safe."

So what can you do until the federal government takes action? You can get a good start by using recycling codes as a general guideline. Use only polyethylene or polypropylene (numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 inside chasing arrows will be marked on the bottom of most products). Ultimately, my choice for food storage and bottles is glass. It's easily recycled. And here's the thing: Glass is really tough -- far less of a concern about breaking than you would think. And certainly easier than worrying about the numbers on the plastic.

Your next step should be to choose fresh, unpackaged food. The Breast Cancer Fund reported a 60 percent decrease in BPA levels when fresh food was eaten for only three short days. And of course, we already know that real food is best all the time.

And last but not least, keep insisting on BPA-free products from manufacturers. Your buying choices speak volumes!

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