Over three years ago, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) submitted a citizen petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA): eliminate bisphenol A from all food packaging. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a toxic chemical that is ubiquitous and used in many consumer applications, including food cans. Many of the world's top scientists agree: BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical that can have health effects at extremely low exposure levels, and is especially harmful to pregnant women, babies and children. BPA has already been banned from 11 states by overwhelming votes in state houses and agencies--several of the votes have been near-unanimous and bi-partisan.
The FDA finally announced their decision today: To reject the NRDC petition and continue to allow unregulated amounts of BPA in food containers including cans and other packaging.
This decision is a strong sign of the problems at hand in federal regulation of toxic chemicals today. The decision-making on a single chemical took the FDA three years. Meanwhile, the states have passed over 80 laws in the past 8 years protecting their citizens from toxic chemicals, and have moved to reform the way that toxic chemicals are introduced into consumer products. Consumers, scientists, state legislators, Europe and Canada are not wrong: BPA is a harmful chemical that needs to be removed from as many consumer products as possible, especially those products that are used by babies and children. The US federal government needs to stop bending to the influence of big industry lobbyists and put the health of Americans first.
While the federal government drags its heels, the states will continue to pass laws that push manufacturers to change their ways. This methodology has worked with several toxic flame retardants, lead, and is working with BPA. In fact, manufacturers in October, citing the growing list of state laws banning the chemical, asked the FDA to make a rule eliminating BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. Pressure from consumers and advocacy groups has begun to slowly drive BPA out of the products of babies and children. Next, we need regulatory pressure to help get BPA out of all products and be sure that the replacement chemicals are safe.
"State legislatures around the country are years ahead of the federal government on BPA. Because of health concerns and a strong demand from consumers, states have taken, and will continue to take, swift action to protect their citizens from BPA. Eleven states have already passed policies to restrict the use of BPA in food and beverage containers and additional policies are pending in numerous state houses. So while the FDA continues to delay much-needed action, many states will continue to show BPA the door."
Sarah Doll, National Director, Safer States
"Here in Connecticut, we've managed to eliminate BPA from infant formula containers, baby food cans, jars, reusable food and beverage containers, and receipts. But until we can get it out of cans and other food packaging, a large portion of our population remains at risk: reproductive issues, diabetes and obesity, impaired brain development, behavioral impacts in children, and cancer. We will continue to work on the state level until the federal government can stand up to industry and pass strong regulations."
Susan Eastwood, Director of Outreach & Communications, Coalition for a Safe & Healthy Connecticut / Clean Water Action
"The shift away from BPA in the marketplace has actually created economic growth as seen with the expansion of companies like Owens-Illinois, a multinational glass company that has had to step up hiring and production to meet the need for safer BPA-free glass baby bottles. And even BPA maker Sunoco has changed its policy and won't even sell BPA to manufacturers whose products can expose BPA to children. Phasing out BPA is a win for our health, and a win for greener jobs and a greener economy."
Mike Schade, Center for Health, Environment and Justice
"Today's decision by the U.S. FDA is deeply disappointing. The growing body of science shows us there is cause for concern about exposure to this hormone-disrupting chemical and by refusing to ban BPA in food packaging, the agency has caved to industry pressure at the expense of the American public."
Kathleen Schuler, Senior Policy Analyst at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, co-director of Healthy Legacy.
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Washington Toxics Coalition
FDA rejects NRDC call to eliminate BPA from food packaging, NRDC, 03/30/2012
Response to petition on BPA, FDA, 03/30/2012
Toxic BPA: FDA rejects NRDC request to remove BPA From food supply, The Louisville Charter for Safer Chemicals, 03/30/2012