Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical that is used in hard plastics and epoxy resins. It was first used in the 1930's as a synthetic estrogen. These days, it helps make plastics strong while staying lightweight, and coats metal food containers in order to preserve the food inside. BPA is one of the highest-volume chemicals produced in the world.
Approximately six pounds of BPA are produced for every American per year. Bisphenol A is a hormone-disrupting chemical, which means that it can mimic or block hormones and disrupt the body's normal functions. It can have health effects at extremely low exposure levels. BPA is especially of concern for vulnerable populations: pregnant women, babies and children.
Last month, we let the world know that states aren't waiting for Congress to act when it comes to toxic chemicalsat least 26 of them will be introducing bills to make their residents safer. And the country has taken notice! The story of the state fight was read across the country, with everyone wondering how they could help their state step up and join the fight.
And now, these states aren't just considering toxics legislationthey're moving it through their state capitols! As legislative sessions get further underway, bills banning toxic chemicals are being introduced from Alaska to West Virginia!
As we mentioned in a recent post, the dangers of toxic flame retardants are a big concern, and bills have been introduced in California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Washingtonand more are sure to come as the sessions continue!
Updated January 17, 2013.
We thought that the beginning of the year would be a good time to update you on bisphenol A (BPA): the ubiquitous chemical that is found in canned goods, register receipts, children's products, plastics and even dental sealants, and is linked with health impacts including behavioral impacts in young children, reproductive issues, miscarriage in pregnant women, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups nationally. At this point, eleven states had done the hard work of banning BPA from these products, including New York and California. Manufacturers realized this was a losing battle, and the American Chemistry Council (ACC) took the unusual step of asking the FDA directly to ban the chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups. When asking for the ban, the ACCthe industry group that lobbies on behalf of chemical companiesdirectly cited the number of state bans that had passed as a reason for requesting an FDA ruling. This group had worked very hard to keep BPA bans out of the states, using industry tricks and millions of dollars. But they realized that the public and the tide were against them and requested the federal ruling.
But BPA is still present in so many products that we come into contact with every day, and we continue to learn about the health impacts associated with BPA.
After the turkey is in the fridge and all the dishes are done, many will begin to prepare for Black Fridaythe busiest shopping day of the year. If you are a Black Friday shopper, chances are that you will be buying toys for the kids in the family.
But before you do so, you may want to take a moment or two to consider what we reported on last week: the leadership organization that oversees toy manufacturing does not have your childrens' best interest at heart. Rather, they are most concerned with protecting the bottom line of a $21.2 billion industry.
While we at Safer States are working on the state level to pass laws which will protect children from toxic chemicals in toys and other products, there are a few things that you, as a consumer can do:
- Look for toys that are labeled BPA and phthalate free. This will help make sure that your children are protected from several of the worst-of-the-worst chemicals.
- Shop in stores (or on websites) that curate their products carefully. While it's hard to protect from all chemicals, at least shopping at stores that try and avoid bad chemicals will put some of the worry on the shopkeeper's shoulders instead of yours.
- Washington Toxics Coalition recommends that you avoid plastics, especially vinyl. Opt instead for unpainted wood toys, or something altogether different like books. You can read more of their tips here.
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.
In January, we told you about 28 states that are considering toxic chemicals legislation in 2012.
The forward momentum continues with South Dakota. State Representative Marc Feinstein (D-Sioux Falls) is sponsoring a bill in the house which would prohibit the sale of bottles and other baby products containing bisphenol A (BPA).
The bill will first be heart in the Health and Human Services Committee, where 11 of 13 members have endorsed the bill, indicating the strong bi-partisan support for the bill. The bill is co-sponsored by several Republicans and at least one Independent.
Bisphenol A is ubiquitous in our lives, and is found in canned goods, register receipts and dental sealants and is linked with health concerns including behavioral impacts in young children, reproductive issues, diabetes, obesity and cancer. If passed, South Dakota would become the 12th state to have a ban of BPA in some capacity on the books.
By Sarah Doll, National Director for Safer States.
With no action yet from Congress, state legislatures continue to work to protect citizens.
The past couple years have seen unprecedented changes in the toxic chemicals landscape across the United States. In the past nine years, over 80 chemical safety laws have been passed with an overwhelming margin of bi-partisan support in statehouses across the country.
But this is not a time to rest on our laurels. Across the country, families still come into contact with unregulated toxic chemicals. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of different chemicals in our home and at our work—chemicals like formaldehyde and chlorinated Tris which are known carcinogens, and bisphenol-a (BPA) which contributes to health problems with reproductive development.
None of these chemicals are effectively regulated by the federal government: it is a widely held myth that manufacturers even have to prove a chemical's safety before introducing it into products we buy. They don't have to, and they won't often even disclose which chemicals make up their products. Instead, they hide behind the claim that the information is proprietary.
The hope for federal regulation is still that—just a hope; the law overseeing toxic chemical regulation is over 30 years old, and its overhaul is being buffeted by strong opposition from the industry trade association which is backed by billions of dollars of influence. So while Congress tries to figure out how to change the rules on the federal level, it is up to the states to fill the gap in protection.
The Safer States coalition, made up of groups of environmental advocates, physicians, nurses, parents, and concerned citizens, stands in support of laws and policies which will lighten the toxic chemical burden that our families, loved ones and community carry.
The fact that we have been able to consistently pass important laws during troubling economic times is encouraging. While much of the chemical industry would have us believe that such laws are anti-business and anti-profit, many other organizations see the writing on the wall: The way that chemicals get into everyday household goods and then into our homes is unsafe and dangerous.
Recent reports show that toxic chemicals are found in every corner of our lives. They are being found in everything from foam in children's products to household cleaners and canned foods. This month, we rounded up some of the most significant studies from our partner organizations. These studies outline the ubiquity of toxic chemicals, and point the way toward solutions.
Fortunately, not all the news is bad. It was discovered that some products don't contain the worst-of-the-worst toxic chemicals, proving that it is possible to create these products with safer alternatives.
And when The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics announced that Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo still contains a harmful, formaldehyde-releasing chemical, the pressure of the news caused Johnson & Johnson to finally agree to remove it. While getting a harmful chemical out of a baby shampoo shouldn't require such action, it is encouraging to see forward motion away from toxic chemicals in some situations.
Washington Toxics Coalition and Safer States
Hidden Hazards in the Nursery (pdf)
Many nursery items contain toxic Tris flame retardants.
In a study released today by the Washington Toxics Coalition and SAFER states we learn that many foam products in children's nurseries contain high levels of toxic flame retardants. These chemicals are associated with health concerns such as lower birth weights, changes in thyroid hormone levels which affect critical metabolic functions, and lower IQ in children.
As we discussed on this site in September, the world of chemical flame retardants is an alphabet soup of names and chemical mixtures. As quickly as some chemicals are being banned, the chemical industry is creating new combinations which skirt the rules.
Washington Toxics Coalition in partnership with Safer States purchased foam-containing baby and children's items from major retailers in six states. They sent samples of the foam to a Duke University research laboratory for testing.
The study found:
- Chlorinated Tris (TDCPP) was present in 16 of 20 products. TDCPP is the chemical that was voluntarily removed from children's pajamas in the 1970s because of health concerns.
- The level of flame retardants in products was high. The 17 products that contained toxic flame retardants had an average of 3.9% by foam weight.
- These flame retardants are not chemically bound to the foam, which means that they escape from the products and get into the air and household dust, endangering the health of all in the home.
The real key to banning toxic flame retardants is a comprehensive policy which identifies the worst-of-the-worst chemicals, and sets in place a plan for phase-out in favor of safer alternatives. The states have seen that using the laser-focus of an individual chemical ban hand-in-hand with sweeping comprehensive policy is the most effective way to reduce toxic exposure to adults and little ones alike. Several states will be taking up the charge of toxic flame retardants this year, following in the footsteps of states like New York, which banned TCEP, a toxic Tris flame retardant, in 2011.
It's no secret that the United States is battling overwhelming issues with obesity. Current statistics show that 34% of Americans are clinically obese, and 68% are overweight1, and the federal government has found that a third of American children are obese or overweight.
This is having a tremendous consequence on the nation as a whole, including an estimated economic cost of $270 billion per year in the United States, according to a report2 released this year. The costs come in need for medical care and the loss of worker productivity due to death and disability.
So, as a society, we are tackling obesity in all the expected ways. We are encouraging adults and children alike to eat less, eat better, move more, and to live healthy lifestyles. We are reevaluating school lunch programs, insisting that fast food restaurants provide healthy options, and encouraging healthy decisions at every juncture.
But what if some chemicals we were exposed to every day were making us fat? Enter obesogens. Science has recently uncovered that exposure to certain chemicals sets the stage for obesity.
Bowing to pressure from state legislatures and a healthy consumer demand for safer products, the chemical industry announced today they are asking the FDA to eliminate bisphenol-a (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups. The industry, led by the American Chemistry Council, has mounted intense opposition to state and federal laws banning BPA.
The industry specifically cited the growing list of state laws banning the hormone-disrupting chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups as the reason for FDA to take action. Just this week California became the 11th state, joining Maine, New York, Vermont, Maryland, Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Delaware and Washington to ban the chemical.
"Without forward-looking state action on BPA, we would still be waiting around for the federal government to act.", said Ivy Sager-Rosenthal, Campaign Director for the Washington Toxics Coalition. "It's our hope the chemical industry and the federal government will get behind meaningful reform of the nation's chemical laws. But until that happens, states are going to continue passing laws limiting BPA and other harmful chemicals in consumer products because consumers are demanding it."
Bisphenol-a is ubiquitous in our lives, and is found in canned goods, register receipts and dental sealants and is linked with health concerns including and behavioral impacts in young children, reproductive issues, diabetes, obesity and cancer.
With BPA now out of baby bottles and sippy cups, the states are now looking to protect even more people from the dangers of BPA; This year Connecticut led that charge by passing a law to remove BPA from register receipts, and other states are following suit.
BPA laws make up just a small number of state laws aimed at eliminating harmful chemicals. States have taken the lead in passing strong laws to regulate chemicals, particularly in consumer products, with 18 states passing 81 laws on chemicals in the last 9 years.
In January, legislators and environmental health advocates in thirty states and Washington, DC announced that they will be introducing bills during their states' 2011 legislative sessions that will protect children and families from harmful toxic chemicals.
The proposed policies run the gamut from comprehensive laws that will promote safer alternatives to toxic chemicals to those that will outlaw specific toxic chemicals including cadmium, bisphenol-A (BPA), and toxic flame retardants. Public support is behind more stringent toxic chemicals laws, and legislators are hearing the message. A study released in November 2010 in conjunction with Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families shows that 18 states have passed 71 chemical safety laws in the last eight years by an overwhelming, bipartisan margin.
Sarah Doll, National Coordinator for Safer States, a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states around the country, is looking forward to legislative action in 2011. "This is going to be an exciting year. States are poised to further protect people across the nation from the harms of toxic chemicals."