In a victory for the chemical industry and a great loss for the health of California’s children, the California State Legislature on Tuesday narrowly failed to pass a bill that would have eliminated the plastics chemical, bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen, from baby bottles, sippy cups and infant formula cans sold in California.
The bill had already passed the State Assembly (July 1, 2010) and the Senate (June 2, 2009), but needed to be approved by the Senate again in what should have been a non-controversial procedural vote.
However, the combination of two ill and absent Democratic Senators - Jenny Oropeza (D-Long Beach) and Patricia Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa) - and a heavily funded lobbying campaign by chemical and formula manufacturing companies changed the playing field and ultimately lead to the demise of the the “Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act”(SB 797), authored by State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Santa Monica).
Pavley introduced the legislation in response to mounting scientific evidence that exposure to even minute amounts of BPA endangers human health. More than 200 scientific studies show that BPA exposure, particularly during gestation and early infancy, is associated with a wide range of disorders, including breast and prostate cancer, birth defects, infertility, early puberty in girls, diabetes and obesity. Federal investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have found traces of the chemical in 93 percent of Americans tested.
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“Once again we see children’s health sacrificed to the cold alter of money and influence,” said Renée Sharp, director of EWG’s California office. “Apparently, the fact that the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program, and several other states and countries around the world have expressed serious concern and/or taken action to reduce BPA exposures means little compared to how money talks in Sacramento.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the chemical and pharmaceutical industries spent more than $5 million to defeat SB 797, and other press reports have exposed how these industries were using “fear tactics” and “befriending people that are able to manipulate the legislative process.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has said she plans to offer an amendment to landmark food safety legislation currently before Congress that would prohibit the use of BPA in all food and beverage packaging meant for children 3 and under – including cans of infant formula.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), The Breast Cancer Fund and Physicians For Social Responsibility/Los Angeles sponsored of the Pavley legislation, and were joined by more than 75 other health, labor, community, environmental, and consumer protection organizations in support of the measure.