Under a new law signed by Governor Christine Gregoire, only baby bottles and sippy cups free of the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) can be sold in Washington state. The measure overwhelmingly passed the House and Senate last month. So why did the Washington State Legislature fail to pass the same bill last year? Good question. And why the sudden change of heart now?
Perhaps the reason for Washington state’s about-face was because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) changed its position on the safety of BPA in January 2010. Previously, the government agency said the trace amounts of the chemical that leach out of food containers were not dangerous. Now, the FDA voiced “some concern” about the chemical’s effects on children and infants. The FDA plans to conduct additional studies over the next few years. So what is BPA exactly, and why is it so bad for us, especially for the wee-ones under the age of three?
According to Safer States, a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations around the country, 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.”
Basically, BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical, which mimics or blocks hormones and disrupts the body’s normal functions. It can have deleterious health effects at extremely low exposure levels. A 2008 study released by environmental health groups in the U.S. and Canada, “Baby’s Toxic Bottle: Bisphenol A Leaching from Popular Baby Bottles,” showed that when new baby bottles are heated they release Bisphenol A in a level which can be harmful to development.
BPA Ban Growing Nationwide
The Washington state BPA ban will go into effect July 1, 2011. The law also includes sports bottles, because many pregnant women use sports bottles to stay hydrated; this ban will take effect a year later on July 1, 2012. Manufacturers, retailers or distributors who knowingly distribute products containing BPA will be subject to a $5,000 fine for each violation. Repeat violators will be fined up to $10,000 for each repeat offense. Washington state joined a growing list of concerned cities, counties, states and countries including:
Minnesota. The Toxic Free Kids Act banned BPA in sippy cups and baby bottles, and the law went into effect on January 1, 2010. Retailers have until January 1, 2011 to sell existing stock.
Connecticut. As of October 1, 2011, BPA will not be present in infant formula containers, baby food cans or jars, or reusable food and beverage containers. This is the most comprehensive law in the nation.
Wisconsin. By June 2010, BPA will be banned from baby bottles and sippy cups for children under the age of 3 in the state. Wisconsin became the third state to ban BPA by passing the BPA Free Kids Act into law in March of 2010.
Albany County, New York. Local Law C was passed in 2009, stating that no one in the county should sell baby bottles or sippy cups containing BPA, or use them with their children. The law went into effect on January 1, 2010.
Schenectady County, New York. A law was passed in 2009 banning the sale of children’s beverage containers containing BPA. The legislation went into effect in late 2009.
Chicago, Illinois. Chicago was the first U.S. city to ban BPA. In May 2009 BPA was forbidden from being used in sippy cups and baby bottles, and stores are required to post signs indicating that products are BPA-free.
Canada. In May 2008 Canada became the first government in the world to that conclude BPA is hazardous to human health, and imposed a limited ban on BPA in baby bottles.
However, my neighbors to the south in Oregon shot down a similar BPA ban in February this year. How much more scientific evidence does the Oregon State Legislature need to put the health of our children before business? Oregon lawmakers decided to blindly trust that businesses will just do the right thing and offer BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups on their own. I guess Oregonians will have to keep their fingers crossed.
Follow Cindy Tickle on Twitter @ethicalbiz Image Credit: thesoftlanding via flickr under a CC license