Bisphenol-A, or BPA, a chemical that has been linked to several diseases including breast cancer, can be found in numerous household items and the toxin has been detected in over 93 percent of Americans. However, starting 2011 Connecticut residents should be free of BPA when the state enforces its ban on the chemical.
On June 4, Gov. Jodi M. Rell signed legislation that would ban the toxin, which is used to make shatterproof plastic products such as baby food containers, baby bottles, reusable food containers and liners inside metal cans of food.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal took the fight against BPA a step further on June 15 when he wrote to plastic manufacturers, asking the companies to provide details about their plans to use scare tactics and campaigns that promote the use of BPA.
Blumenthal cited published reports of meetings held between corporations such as Coca-Cola, Del Monte Foods and Crown Packaging Corp. that came together to brainstorm ways to promote BPA. One such idea involved a pregnant mother who would tour the U.S. advocating the health benefits of BPA.
“Colluding in a campaign of confusion and concealment—potentially endangering children and pregnant women—is appalling and possibly illegal,” Blumenthal said in a press release. “This misinformation campaign could menace public health by confusing consumers and convincing them to ignore mounting scientific evidence that BPA, even in minute doses, endangers children and pregnant women.”
Blumenthal has since requested more information and documentation relating to these meetings held by the BPA Joint Trade Association.
BPA first made its way into consumer goods nearly 30 years ago.
According to Sarah Uhl, the environmental health coordinator at the Clean Water Action in Connecticut, the use of BPA in plastics first began in the 1970s and just a few decades later plastic baby bottles made with BPA became popular. Uhl said a sharp increase in BPA related illnesses, including breast and testicular cancer, neurological impairment and reproductive problems, were recorded as these plastic baby bottles entered mainstream markets.
Uhl said BPA is a hormone disrupter that acts as a drug. Unlike most chemicals, which become more lethal in higher doses, Uhl said even trace amounts of BPA could cause bodily damage. Parts of billion or parts per trillion of BPA have been shown to cross the placenta and disrupt normal prenatal development. The chemical was originally created to be a synthetic substitute for estrogen, which is why it is absorbed by the endocrine system.
“It was never marketed as a pharmaceutical,” Uhl said. “Instead, now it’s in all of our food.”
Yet, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a daily intake of 50 micrograms per kilogram of BPA. The Food and Drug Administration has also deemed BPA as a safe plastic. However, the FDA has recently reopened its investigation of the effects of BPA after a director of the study admitted the tests were funded by the American Chemistry Council.
Despite the findings from the EPA and the FDA, federal legislation to ban BPA is also in the works, Uhl said. Along with Connecticut, 20 states and four localities have proposed bans on BPA. Also joining the bandwagon are retail stores such are Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Sears, which have also banned products containing the chemical.
However, Uhl said, because of shoddy regulations on toxins, there are other harmful chemicals in consumer products that should also be banned. She said BPA has acted as the “poster child” for a larger problem: chemicals do not have to pass human or environmental safety requirements before they are marketed.
“The toxic chemical policies in the U.S. are terrible,” Laura Anderson, a participant of a BPA study, said.
Anderson of Wethersfield, said she was excited the bill to ban BPA was finally passed. A few years ago Anderson participated in a study that tested for BPA in her blood and urine, and traces of the chemical were found in both samples. Since then she said she has tried to avoid using products that contain BPA.
“It can drive you crazy because it’s everywhere,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she and her family now check the recycle number on plastic containers and try to only purchase plastics numbered 1, 2 or 5 – those thought to not contain BPA. However, in a recent study BPA was detected in these plastics as well.
Since the study, Anderson said she feels it’s necessary to explain her consumer actions, because some think she has taken the BPA matter “too far.”
“I’m your average person in Connecticut,” she said. “I live in the suburbs and I’m trying to raise a family. I’m healthy, but I’m not extreme in any way. The difference is that I have this information.”