FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 13, 2009
ON HEELS OF NEW REPORT SHOWING DANGEROUS CHEMICAL FOUND IN MANY MORE PRODUCTS THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT: SCHUMER ANNOUNCES NEW EFFORT TO BAN DANGEROUS BPA FROM ALL CHILDREN'S PLASTIC CONTAINERS AND CANNED FOOD - CHEMICAL HAS BEEN SHOWN TO LEAD TO DEVELOPMENTAL PROBLEMS AND CANCERS
On the heels of a new Consumer Reports’ study showing that the toxic chemical bisphenol-A is now in a wider range of products used and consumed by children and in higher concentrations than previously thought, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled his legislation that bans BPA in food and beverage containers marketed to kids aged three and under. The report shows that BPA is found in many more products than previously thought, posing major health risks that may affect reproduction and neural development as a result of early life exposure. Schumer’s legislation bans the sale of children’s food or beverage containers made of BPA and would dramatically ramp up enforcement, including stiff penalties for manufacturers, importers and stores that are found to be in violation. The legislation also will require testing of materials used to manufacture plastic containers to ensure finished containers are BPA-free. The new report shows levels of BPA present in humans at much higher levels than previously thought and that a single serving of foods delivered in certain containers could lead to the ingestion of BPA levels that are much higher than what is currently recommended by the FDA.
“This Consumer Reports’ study adds to the mounting evidence that BPA is not only harmful for our children but for an overwhelming majority of Americans,” said Schumer. “There have been enough warning signs about the dangers of this chemical that we cannot sit idly by and continue to allow residents across the Capital Region to be exposed. We need to keep this dangerous chemical out of the food chain.”
In May of 2008, the federal government released a draft report that found that BPA is potentially dangerous to human development and reproduction. The finding by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, calls into question previous analyses of the FDA that found minimal concern related to BPA. Since the release of the NTP report, the FDA convened a Task Force to reexamine the research on this issue but has yet to produce any new information. Schumer’s legislation would toughen enforcement and penalties across the nation and fund new research on the health effects of exposure to BPA in all age groups.
BPA is used to make plastics clear and shatter-resistant, and is commonly found in water bottles, food containers, baby bottles, some dental fillings and the coatings for the inside of cans containing foods. While BPA has earned approval by the FDA for what are called “food contact” consumer products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research has shown that 95% of tested Americans have BPA levels at or above those found to cause abnormalities in animals. Bisphenol-A has been known to mimic the hormone estrogen and recent studies have raised concerns about the hormonal impact the chemical can have on the prostate gland, mammary gland, and reproductive development of fetuses, infants, and children. Scientific studies suggest that toddlers and infants are the most at risk from BPA because they have the highest levels of BPA exposure at a time when risks to reproduction and neural development are greatest.
Since 1997, over 100 published studies have documented adverse effects in animals caused by exposure to low levels of BPA. Lab animals exposed to BPA have been found to be more likely to have miscarriages, prostate problems and cancers. Studies also link BPA to obesity, infertility and behavioral changes in test animals. A government panel that reviewed the safety of BPA was found to rely on studies that found no harm that were largely paid for by the chemical industry.
This week, Consumer Reports released findings from tests of canned food, including soups, juice, tuna, and green beans. Almost all of the 19 name brand foods tested contained BPA, even in products in cans that were labeled BPA-free. The study also found BPA in the canned liquid version of Similac Advance infant formula and in canned Nestlé Juicy Juice.
Today, Schumer unveiled The BPA-Free Kids Act, which prohibits the manufacture and sale of food and beverage containers composed of bisphenol-A marketed for infants and toddlers. The bill protects infants and toddlers who are most vulnerable to the health risks from BPA and bans the manufacture and sale of children’s food and beverage containers made of BPA marketed for children ages three and under. Products covered by the ban include baby bottles, sippy cups, bowls, plates, and other containers, as well as utensils such as spoons. The ban would take effect 180 days from enactment of the legislation.
The bill also mandates testing and certification by plastics and container manufacturers. The industrial chemical bisphenol A is the basic building block for polycarbonate plastic which, in turn, is used to make various products including refillable food and beverage containers. The bill requires suppliers of plastic resins sold for use in the manufacture of children’s food and beverage containers to test the plastic resin and certify that it is BPA-free and also requires manufacturers of children’s food and beverage containers to test the plastic resin it uses in the manufacture of such containers.
The bill requires the Consumer Product Safety Commission to audit the plastic resin test data provided to the Commission by suppliers of plastic resins and manufacturers of children’s food and beverage containers. The bill also requires the Commission to randomly test children’s food and beverage containers actually on store shelves to ensure that such containers are BPA-free. Additionally, it requires consumer-friendly labeling. Consumers have the right to know whether the children’s food and beverage containers they purchase are BPA-free. The bill ensures that consumers can identify containers made from tested materials by mandating that such containers bear the compliance statement – “BPA-Free Product” – on the packaging or container itself.
The bill sets criminal and civil penalties for violations. Children’s food or beverage containers made of BPA would be considered a “banned hazardous substance” under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (“FHSA”). The bill mandates application of criminal and/or civil penalties under the FHSA for any violations of the BPA-Free Kids Act, including the testing, certification, and labeling requirements. The bill requires the Commission to report annually to Congress on its actions to enforce the BPA-Free Kids Act testing provisions, as well as whether the Commission imposed any criminal or civil penalties for violations of the Act.
A significant number of States and localities across the country are in the process of enacting laws to ban sales of containers made of BPA. The bill makes clear that the BPA-Free Kids Act would not preempt State or local laws relating to regulation of products containing BPA and clarifies that the BPA-Free Kids Act would not affect any enforcement action or liability of any person under State law.
Schumer is also supporting legislation, introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, to permanently ban BPA from all food and beverage containers, including canned food. Schumer noted that his legislation focuses on infants and toddlers because young children are the most at risk from BPA exposure but getting BPA out of kids’ products is just the first step toward getting BPA out of all products.
Finally, Schumer’s legislation would provide desperately needed funding for additional research on the health effects of BPA. The BPA-Free Kids Act authorizes appropriation of $5 million a year for 5 years to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (part of NIH) to begin a five-year research initiative to increase understanding on the health effects of exposure to BPA in all age groups and in pregnant women. The NIEHS would be required to report to Congress, on an interim and final basis, the results of the initiative and the current state of the science.