Mar 13 2009

Senator Feinstein, Congressman Markey and Senator Schumer Introduce Measure to Establish Federal Ban on Bisphenol A in Food and Beverage Containers

- Studies show harmful chemical can affect neural development in infants, small children, and increase cancer risk-

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have introduced companion legislation to establish a federal ban on the chemical Bisphenol A in all food and beverage containers.

Bisphenol A, known commonly as BPA, is used in a wide variety of consumer products, including food containers, water bottles and baby bottles. The National Toxicology Program in the Department of Health and Human Services has cited "some concern" that Bisphenol A may affect neural development in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures. Dozens of additional peer-reviewed scientific papers have also found evidence of adverse health effects such as increases in breast and prostate cancer risk, heart disease, liver abnormalities and diabetes.

"Evidence is mounting that exposure to this chemical is dangerous for developing children." Senator Feinstein said. "Americans should not be used as guinea pigs by chemical companies while we wait, potentially for several years, for more scientific evidence to show this chemical is harmful to our health. The time has come to take action."

"The scientific evidence is mounting that BPA poses serious health risks, especially to children, and manufacturers and retailers have already started to pull items from their store shelves," said Rep. Markey. "It is time for Congress to act quickly to ban this toxin from all food and beverage containers so that parents can feed their children without worrying that the food contains poisonous chemicals." 

Rep. Markey is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Food and Drug Administration. Rep. Markey authored a bill to ban BPA in food and beverage containers in the last Congress.

"There have been enough warning signs about the dangers of BPA that we cannot wait to act. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Many manufacturers and retailers have already recognized the danger and have taken steps to get kid’s products containing BPA off store shelves. It is time for Congress to do the right thing, too," Senator Schumer said.

Bill Summary

The Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2009 requires that:

  • Reusable beverage containers (including baby bottles and thermoses) that contain Bisphenol A cannot be sold;
  • Other food and beverage containers (such as canned food or formula) containing BPA cannot be introduced into commerce. 

If a manufacturer can show that there is no technology available to make a particular food or beverage without the use of BPA, the FDA can issue renewable one-year waivers to the ban for that particular food or beverage. However, the food or beverage container must be labeled indicating that BPA was used. The manufacturer also must submit a proposal for how it plans to comply with the ban in the future.

The FDA also must periodically review the list of substances that have been deemed safe for manufacturing food and beverage containers, to determine whether new scientific evidence exists that these substances may pose adverse health risks. 

This legislation will not preempt stronger state standards. The ban would take effect 180 days from enactment of the legislation.

Background

BPA is a hormone disrupting chemical and may act like estrogen when in the human body. While the science is still emerging, research is connecting BPA with a variety of serious health effects, including the early onset of puberty, hyperactivity, lowered sperm count and miscarriage.

Last year, Canada became the first nation to formally move to ban BPA. Citing a scientific review, officials moved to eliminate polycarbonate baby bottles that contain this chemical. They stated that because safe alternatives to BPA are readily available, this ban is a prudent way to reduce risk to vulnerable infants.

"Our nation’s policies should be governed by the same approach. We need to do the utmost to protect vulnerable populations, especially children, from potentially toxic exposures of this chemical," Senator Feinstein said.

Scientists at Stanford University accidentally discovered BPA’s estrogen-mimicking effects in 1993. A mysterious estrogen-like chemical skewed results of their lab work and they finally realized that BPA was leaching from laboratory flasks.

Since then, other studies have linked exposure to BPA with adverse health effects. Here are a few examples:

  • The Environmental Working Group found that more than half the canned goods tested in a 2007 study had detectible levels of BPA and that one in 10 cans contained enough of the chemical to expose a child or pregnant woman to more than 200 times the government’s safe level.
  • Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine linked BPA to problems in brain function and mood disorders in monkeys. Researchers found that the low level chemical exposure interfered with brain cell connections vital to memory, learning and mood.
  • The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted in 2003-2004, detected BPA in more than 90 percent of Americans it tested. Using this data, researchers linked higher BPA concentrations to adverse health effects, including cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and clinically abnormal concentrations of some liver enzymes.

Last week, six manufacturers (Avent, Disney First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflow) announced that they would ban BPA in baby bottles they sell in the United States.

Yesterday, Sunoco indicated that it had stopped selling the chemical to anyone who would not promise to prohibit its use in products intended for children ages three and under.

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