Before the Board of Environmental Protection
by Matt Prindiville, NRCM Toxics Project Director
Chair Lessard, members of the Board. My name is Matt Prindiville and I’m the Clean Production Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine. NRCM testifies in support of the proposed rule. I know you’ve had a long day so I promise to brief and to the point. I’ve attached a timeline from the Environmental Working Group which outlines the basic scientific and regulatory history on bisphenol-A (BPA) from its creation in 1891 up to the regulatory actions in play at this moment. It’s a fascinating read, and I encourage you to check it out. I’ve also attached a fact sheet on safer alternatives to BPA in the uses you’re considering today from the Breast Cancer Fund. I will also be submitting more detailed written comments before the end of the comment period. With the remainder of my time, I would like to make some summary points as to why we believe BPA should be designated and restricted as a priority chemical.
You’ve heard about the science today. The fact that BPA is a known endocrine disruptor; that it’s one of the top 5 priority chemicals for EPA for regulatory scrutiny; that Canada just this week has announced that bisphenol-A will be designated as one of 91 chemicals under their List of Toxic Substances; that the National Institute for Health is spending more than 30 million dollars to research it; that the United Nations is convening an international BPA summit this fall to deal with this issue worldwide, and the fact that 8 states comprising more than a 15% our nation’s population have already taken action (when Governor Shwarzeneger signs the California bill into law, that number will rise to 28% of the US population) – all of this suggests to me, that the very least the state of Maine can do is to designate bisphenol-a as a priority chemical and ban it from use in reusable food and beverage containers. And we would strongly urge you to consider restricting BPA use in infant formula and baby food, while also supporting the stronger use-reporting language outlined by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.
Here is the crux of the matter. Why do we keep allowing a known endocrine disruptor to be used in food and beverage containers in the first place? We understand that there may be legitimate uses of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins, but the idea that we would take a chemical similar to what’s in birth-control pills and make baby bottles out of it and line our food cans with it is crazy, and it’s wrong.
It seems to me that the industries that use polycarbonate plastic or epoxy coatings for food and beverage containers would be running to find alternatives as quickly as possible. We understand that there may be concerns about lawsuits and that they did not know about the health problems when they began using BPA, but that’s no excuse to keep denying the science and defending the continued use of it in products that expose all of us, including our young children.
We know that chemicals need to better tested from the get-go before they’re released into the marketplace, and work is being done on this at the federal level, but there are thousands upon thousands of chemicals already in commerce that have not had any significant kind of health and safety testing. So when researchers discover that a chemical in use is harming us, the finger-pointing happens on one side and the denial and defending happens on the other. This is the fundamental problem. We don’t have a system, whereby when research shows that a toxic chemical needs to be substituted for a safer one, that industry will move out of denial and work quickly with health scientists and engineers to find suitable substitutes, and that advocates will grant them adequate time so that they can transition smoothly and cost-effectively. That’s what I hope our safer chemicals law can help achieve.
I would like to close with a personal story. This is my daughter’s sippy cup. About two and a half years ago when Tula was six months old, my wife and I went down to the local pharmacy to find a sippy cup for her. When we got to the appropriate aisle, there was nothing but polycarbonate baby bottles and sippy cups as far as the eye could see. We had to drive down to Portland from Rockland to buy a BPA-free sippy cup at Whole Foods. That was two and half years ago. Today, the only place you can find a polycarbonate baby bottle or sippy cup is at a dollar store. Now this rule will prevent that if you advance it, but the real issue concerns infant formula, baby food and food-can linings. Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about food-can linings yet because of the exemption, but you can address baby food and canned infant formula and we urge you to so.
Since you’ve been dealing with a heavy topic today, I would like to say one last thing on the lighter side. With all due respect, it’s time for BPA manufacturers and users to get through the 5 stages of grief around BPA. We’ve seen today that they’re still stuck stages 1 and 2: denial and anger. Maybe with a little more work, we’ll get them to bargaining, which is the next step. Unfortunately depression follows after that, but when we hit the final stage of acceptance, we’re all going to be a lot healthier. Thank you very much.