A little-noticed portion of the landmark food safety bill could have a big impact on the composition of consumer products, leading to the elimination of Bisphenol A in plastics now widely used in a range of plastic products aimed at pregnant women and young children.
If the Senate keeps the provision in the final food safety bill, the Food and Drug Administration will have until the end of 2009 to determine whether the chemical is safe; if it cannot make a determination, then it must restrict the use of Bisphenol A in products designed for pregnant women, babies and young children, according to a provision inserted in the bill by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).
The FDA has consistently endorsed the safety of Bisphenol A, but it has been thoroughly and convincingly criticized for ignoring a large set of independent research, and relying instead on a handful of studies by the chemical industry.
"This is a solid first step, but Congress needs to keep a close eye on the FDA," said Environmental Working Group (EWG) legislative analyst Jason Rano. "The agency could easily backslide to its industry biases if its scientific review isnt honest and transparent."
Bisphenol A is found in hard plastics, baby bottles, the lining of food and beverage cans, the white coating on shiny receipts ... and in the bodies of about 9 in 10 U.S. residents.
Momentum is building to ban Bisphenol A in baby products sold in the U.S., as Canada has done: Recently Minnesota and Connecticut became the first states and Chicago the first city to ban its use in children's products, and Wisconsin may be next.
Several other states 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.
As public concern over the chemical have mounted -- largely due to the reporting of the Heart of Green Award-nominated Milwaukee Journal-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.-
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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