Urge Swift Action to Protect Young Children with Safer Alternatives to BPA
(AUGUSTA) Four months ago Maine moms decided to take matters into their own hands to protect their children from dangerous chemicals. Outraged by new test results showing that so much of the baby and toddler food on store shelves contains the toxic chemical BPA (bisphenol-A) they were determined to force a change in policy to get BPA out of baby and toddler food packaging in favor of safer alternatives.
“No parent would ever think of intentionally feeding their child BPA,” stated Dana Bushee Hernandez, a mother of two from Waterville and one of the moms behind the effort. “But the shocking truth is that BPA is in foods made especially for babies and toddlers. As moms, we all agreed that we had to do something.”
The moms invoked a seldom-used option that allows Maine citizens to initiate a rule-making process before the Board of Environmental Protection (BEP). They vowed to return with at least 150 signatures – the minimum needed to require the BEP to consider their proposed rule to get BPA out of baby and toddler food packaging.
The moms delivered on their promise after meeting their goal five times over. Today with the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine they presented over 800 petitions to Patricia Aho, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, at her office in Augusta. To support the citizen petitions, the Alliance included an extensive ‘basis statement’ – a summary of the scientific evidence making the case for the proposed BPA rule.
“The science against BPA is overwhelming, so this isn’t a question of ‘if’; it’s a question of ‘when’,” stated Rosie Davis, a mother and pediatrician from Portland. “Are we going sit idly by while our children continue to be exposed to this dangerous chemical every time they eat a meal? Or are we going to follow the evidence, act responsibly, and take steps now to protect our kids from toxic BPA?”
The petitions call on the BEP to use their existing authority under Maine law to protect Maine kids by phasing out the use of BPA in the packaging of foods intentionally marketed to children under the age of three. This will include infant formula, baby foods, and toddler foods.
The BEP must consider three standards when deciding whether to move forward: is BPA harmful, are children exposed in their food, and are safer alternatives available and affordable? The petitioners submitted supporting documents to demonstrate that all three standards have been met.
Studies indicate that BPA is a dangerous hormone disruptor that is linked to cancer, obesity, learning disabilities, male infertility, and early puberty in girls. Exposure in the womb, during infancy, or in childhood can set the stage for a lifetime of health problems.
“When it becomes clear that toxins such as BPA are detrimental to the health and development of children, it is our responsibility as a society to protect our most precious assets and take decisive steps to reduce exposure,” said Dr. Steven Feder, a pediatrician in Boothbay Harbor and President of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “That is what we are confronted with here. Well-documented science and further emerging data leave no doubt that, yes, BPA is harmful to fetuses, children and the developing brain.”
Research shows that one of the most common paths of exposure to BPA is through food. BPA is used as an epoxy liner inside metal food cans and inside the metal lids of glass jars. Recent testing sponsored by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine found BPA in 11 of the 12 sampled containers of baby food and all three of the canned foods sampled.
At the press conference the moms created a pyramid of canned food out of products the ban could cover, like Campbell’s Dora the Explorer SpaghettiO’s, Annie’s Homegrown Organic Arthur Loops, and Earth’s Best Organic Elmo Tomato Soup. Abigail King, the Toxics Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Council of Maine, stated, “There is no question that Maine children are exposed to BPA in the food they eat. This is not only supported by scientific studies and lab testing; it was affirmed by the BEP itself in 2010 when it appropriately named BPA Maine’s first ‘priority chemical’. In fact, BPA exposure could be slashed by two thirds if food packaging were BPA-free.”
“Since safer alternatives are widely available, swift action should be taken to phase out BPA in all food packaging for young children,” said Mike Belliveau, executive director of Environmental Health Strategy Center. “The good news is that the market has already begun to move away from BPA. Now we need this rule to move the laggards to BPA-free containers and ensure that all alternatives are truly safer.”
With the petition filed today, the Environmental Health Strategy Center submitted a 30-page report that documents the availability of safer alternatives to BPA in metal cans and jar lids for infant formula, baby food and toddler food. Available safer alternatives include several types of BPA-free plastic containers, as well as cartons made by Tetra Pak and pouches made by Cheer Pack that consist of several layers of paper, foil and BPA-free plastic. Some manufacturers have recently switched to BPA-free metal lids for glass jars of baby food but have violated Maine law by failing to provide sufficient information to determine whether those are truly safer alternatives.
“No child should be exposed to the hormone havoc of BPA at the dinner table,” stated Annie Colaluca, a mother of three from Waterville. “The standards for BEP action have been met – BPA is extremely dangerous, our children are exposed, and safer alternatives are available. Maine moms have waited long enough – now it’s time for action.”