With momentum building to ban Bisphenol A (recently Minnesota became the first state and Chicago the first city to ban its use in children's products), the chemical industry held a secret meeting with the goal of devising a way to improve the chemical's image.
We know about the meeting -- of course -- because of Heart of Green-nominated reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who have covered the health risks of the chemical and the industry-funded studies that have influenced the Food and Drug Administration's official endorsement of the chemical's safety, for two years.
The latest report relied on a leaked memo from the five-hour meeting. Some details:
"A pregnant woman would be 'the holy grail' to serve as a spokeswoman, the memo says. Attendees said they doubted they could find a scientist to serve as a spokesman for BPA. ...
"Other strategies discussed at the meeting included focusing on how BPA bans would disproportionately put minorities at risk, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans who are more inclined to be poor and dependent on canned foods. Committee members said they would try to get stories in the media that spread the message that canned goods made without BPA would be more likely to become contaminated. BPA serves to seal food in cans, helping to keep out bacteria.
"The group agreed to pay $500,000 to survey the American public about BPA safety."
Several states, and Congress, are considering bans on the use of Bisphenol A in children's products, in order to protect children at their most vulnerable from a chemical that mimics the human hormone estrogen. The Food and Drug Administration has not backed off its endorsement of the chemical as safe, despite independent research that suggests the chemical mimics hormones and could be linked to serious health problems, from diabetes to prostate cancer.
The FDA's stance -- which it determined based on two industry-funded studies and to the exclusion of dozens, if not hundreds, of independent scientific research raising serious questions about the safety of the chemical -- is coming under increasing fire from both within the U.S. and abroad.
Bisphenol A is found in the blood of nearly every American tested, and is used to make hard, clear plastics for food containers, dental sealants and the sealants that line food and beverage cans.
Baby bottles aren't the only way one can be exposed to Bisphenol A. It is found in the linings of cans -- canned foods, including infant formula, as well as canned beverages -- and in hard plastic bottles of various types.
As concerns over the chemical have mounted -- largely due to the reporting of the Sentinel reporters over the last couple years -- major retailers and manufacturers like Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Nalgene (also recognized for Heart of Green Award consideration) have vowed to phase out the use of Bisphenol A in children's products. Even Sunoco, one of the chemical's biggest manufacturers, has stopped selling it to companies that might use it in a children's product.
Canada has banned Bisphenol A in many products for babies and young children, and Suffolk County, N.Y., could become the first government in the U.S. to do so. The National Toxicology Program has raised concerns about Bisphenol A's potential to disrupt the normal development of fetuses and babies, and the Environmental Protection Agency has been criticized for failing to consider the cumulative effect of hormone-disrupting chemicals that Americans are routinely exposed to.
Minnesota and Chicago, as of Jan. 1, 2010, will not allow the sale of products containing Bisphenol A if the product is intended for a child under the age of 3.
For more information about Bisphenol A and the other ubiquitous hormone-disrupting chemical of the moment, phthalates, see The Daily Green's How to Avoid Bisphenol A and Phthalates.
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