BPA in baby bottles, formula liners causes an array of health problems

On two Wednesdays in August, in two California cities, I was joined by hundreds of mothers from backgrounds as varied and diverse as their children's faces. They all share a common goal; to give the babies in their arms and the toddlers at their sides the healthiest possible start in life. Many of them have known for some time, others are just beginning to learn of the danger leaching out of their baby's bottle and sippy cup. All of them are urging California lawmakers to ban bisphenol-A (BPA) from feeding products designed for children three and under.

BPA is an artificial hormone that is widely used in plastic bottles and the lining of formula cans. It seeps out of containers and into food and drink consumed by babies and young children.

More than 220 peer-reviewed studies have linked BPA to a host of health problems including breast cancer, infertility, obesity and neurological and behavioral changes, including autism and hyperactivity.

Because BPA is an endocrine disrupting chemical and acts like estrogen in the body, its repeated ingestion is the equivalent of giving babies daily low-level doses of birth control pills. Why would we continue to allow this toxin to poison California children?

My SB 797 would, in conjunction with the Green Chemistry Initiative, ban the use of BPA in food and drink containers for children three years and younger. A final vote on the bill will take place on the Assembly floor before the legislative session ends on September 11.

During a toxic bottle swap in downtown Los Angeles on August 19, and a "message in a bottle" rally at the Capitol on August 26, parents urged California lawmakers to support SB 797 and protect our children from further harm.

We are already lagging behind. Minnesota and Connecticut both enacted bans on BPA with bi-partisan support. Canada has banned the chemical from baby bottles. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein is pursuing legislation at the federal level. Public health officials in Massachusetts are warning parents of young children to avoid BPA.

Now California has become ground zero for a David vs. Goliath fight with the deep-pocketed chemical industry. In May, chemical and food industry lobbyists called an emergency brainstorming session to devise an attack plan to kill SB 797 and similar bills pending around the country.

Meeting behind doors at the exclusive Cosmos Club in Washington D.C., representatives from Coca-cola, Alcoa, Del Monte, Crown, the American Chemistry Council, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association committed a half million dollars to an effort to "prolong the life of BPA."

A copy of the meeting minutes leaked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel revealed the attendees discussed employing some disturbing tactics to kill BPA legislation in California including:

-Using "fear tactics (e.g. ‘Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?')"

-Focusing on "the impact of BPA bans on minorities (Hispanic and African American)

and poor," by insinuating that without BPA, food prices would rise.

-Finding a "pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country

about the benefits of BPA," something which the group referred to as "the holy grail"

After the meeting's minutes were leaked, Coca-Cola disavowed the group's tactics, but none of the other attendees have followed suit.

In fact, the chemical industry is using the same tactics, and lobbying firm (Weinberg Group) that the tobacco industry did to keep cigarettes on the shelve for so many years after health dangers had been well documented.

These tactics and the health dangers from BPA will disproportionately hurt California's low income families. During the August 19 toxic bottle swap in Los Angeles Dr. Linda Weekes, Medical Director for St. John's Well Child and Family Center, said that while BPA-free alternatives are available at some larger retail stores, they aren't plentiful at the dollar store. "It's expensive to be poor," said Weekes.

Every child from every community deserves a healthy start. Lawmakers shouldn't be duped by scare tactics and a highly-funded misinformation campaign. SB 797 has widespread support from parents, doctors, and groups like; Breast Cancer Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Asian Health Services, Black Women for Wellness, California PTA, Women Infants and Children (WIC), Comite Civico Del Valle, and Latinas for Reproductive Justice, just to name a few.

I'm calling on my colleagues in the Assembly to side with mothers, health care professionals and a base of scientific evidence and not the chemical industry. Support SB 797 and keep toxic BPA out of our children's food and drink.

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