Environmental Health and Investor Groups Call for Legislative Safeguards and an Immediate Moratorium on Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles, Food and Beverage Containers

BOSTON, MA – The toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) leaches from plastic baby bottles when heated according to a new study released today by environmental health organizations in the U.S. and Canada. Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would replace toxic chemicals like BPA with safer alternatives where feasible. Advocates and legislators are calling for the bill’s swift passage in the House of Representatives to better protect Massachusetts families from toxic chemicals in common household goods. Nationally, dozens of groups are calling for an immediate moratorium on the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles and other food and beverage containers in the wake of the study’s results. In early 2007, investors began to raise concerns with baby bottle manufacturers about the potential reputational and legal risk this may pose to them and asked them to review alternatives to BPA.

The study, “Baby’s Toxic Bottle: Bisphenol A Leaching from Popular Baby Bottles,” was commissioned by Environmental Defence of Canada and researched by the laboratory of Frederick vom Saal, PhD., at the University of Missouri. It contributes to a growing body of evidence that calls for immediate protective action to reduce public exposure to BPA, especially for infants and children.

“Animal studies suggest that human exposure to BPA during early development, particularly exposure of the fetus and infant, may be related to a range of adverse health outcomes including breast cancer,” said Laura Vandenberg, PhD, Forsyth Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology. “Similar health problems were seen after exposure of both animals and humans to diethylstilbestrol (DES), another synthetic estrogen that is now banned.”

BPA, a synthetic sex hormone that mimics estrogen, is used to make hard polycarbonate plastic. Ninety-five percent of all baby bottles on the market are made with BPA. The results of the U.S. study show that, when new bottles are heated, those manufactured by Avent, Evenflo, Dr. Brown’s and Disney/First Years leached between 4.7 – 8.3 parts per billion of BPA. Recent research on animals shows that BPA can be harmful by disrupting development at doses below these levels.

Studies conducted on laboratory animals and cell cultures have linked low doses of BPA to -1- obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer and other illnesses. BPA exposure is widespread and has been found in 95% of Americans tested. Scientists, physicians, and public health professionals suspect that existing scientific evidence on BPA indicates a real risk to human health.

“As parents, we can obviously look for safer products, including plastic baby bottles made without BPA or glass baby bottles,” said Judy Robinson, Boston area mother of two. “But the problem is more extensive than that and we need broader solutions including new laws and an immediate moratorium on BPA in food and beverage containers.”

“We know that children are most vulnerable to toxic chemicals early in life as their organs and defense systems are still developing,” said Eric Weltman, new father and spokesperson for Massachusetts Public Health Association. “To keep our children out of harm’s way, it’s clear that preventive action is called for, particularly during this critical period of time in their young lives.”

Boston Common Asset Management, a founding member of the Investors Environmental Health Network (iehn.org), has engaged Philips Electronics, Novartis and Playtex on this issue and are pleased that Philips has been looking at alternatives to BPA since January of 2007 including the feasibility of manufacturing a BPA -free baby bottle.

“With the lack of existing legal safety standards, companies themselves must take the lead in finding alternatives to BPA to avoid the potential legal and reputational risk associated with manufacturing and selling baby bottles and other products which contain BPA,” stated Lauren Compere, Director of Shareholder Advocacy, Boston Common Asset Management.

There are no existing safety standards regulating BPA under U.S. laws, even for products used by infants and young children. Massachusetts is one of nine states that has introduced legislation that would restrict the use of toxic chemicals like BPA in everyday products. Last week, the Massachusetts Senate passed An Act Providing for Safer Alternatives to Toxic Chemicals (S-2481). Now before the House of Representatives, the bill would replace toxic chemicals like BPA with safer alternatives where feasible.

“As a father and a legislator, I believe it is simply common sense to replace toxic chemicals like BPA with safer alternatives,” said Representative Frank Smizik (D-Brookline), Co-Chair of the Environment Committee. “This allows us to gradually shift to safer products while we also broaden our trade opportunities with overseas markets that have already modernized their safety standards.”

“The Senate has shown unanimous support for the Safer Alternatives bill after a careful evaluation of all sides of this issue,” said Representative Jay Kaufman, House sponsor. “Now it is up to the House of Representatives to take action this session to help protect the health of families throughout Massachusetts.”

“As a recent participant in a unique study that tested 35 U.S. residents for bisphenol A and other toxic chemicals, I know that I carry this toxic chemical in my body,” said Representative Ellen Story (D-Amherst). “It is a top priority for me to work with my colleagues in the House to pass the Safer Alternatives bill and help bring about a healthier tomorrow for all.” Click here for more details

In addition to baby bottles, BPA is used to make hard plastic used in some toddler sippy cups, polycarbonate water bottles such as some Nalgene bottles, dental sealants, and the linings of many food and beverage cans, including all infant formulas. Patagonia and Whole Foods have stopped selling products containing BPA.

The full study, “Baby’s Toxic Bottle: Bisphenol A Leaching from Popular Baby Bottles,” is available to download for free. The Canadian version of the study is also available at www.toxicnation.ca.

For information on investor-actions related to BPA, please contact Lauren Compere, Director of Shareholder Advocacy, Boston Common Asset Management at lcompere(at)bostoncommonasset.com or (617) 720-5557.

The U.S. version of “Baby’s Toxic Bottle” was written by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, and Clean Water Action, in collaboration with Environmental Defence, and released in the U.S. by a broad coalition of public health and environmental non-governmental organizations.

Published On: February 7, 2008Categories: From the Commons