Iowans Take Action to Ban BPA in Baby Products

Toddler drinks from sippy cup

Is this sippy cup safe for baby? Not if it contains BPA. Photo: © Melastmohican - Fotolia.com

There’s good news for the children of Iowa today — though it’s not quite a done deal yet. The Iowa Senate passed a ban on Bisphenol-A (BPA) in the manufacture of certain children’s products sold in the state, including baby bottles, baby bottle liners, sippy cups, pacifiers, and teething rings.

A synthetic estrogen, BPA is used to harden clear plastics in all sorts of products, such as water bottles, containers for storing leftovers, plastic eyeglasses, ice cube trays, beer and soda cans, baby food jar lids, thermoses, and cell phones. It’s even likely to be in the cash register receipt you get at the grocery store. And, you can find BPA in the plastic lining inside cans of food and in some children’s toys.

Far from Harmless

The ubiquitous nature of this chemical might fool consumers into thinking it’s completely safe. It’s not.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) — a public-health watchdog that monitors toxic chemicals in such things as children’s products, cosmetics, cell phones, and produce — BPA is far from harmless:

Trace BPA exposure has been shown to disrupt the endocrine system and trigger a wide variety of disorders, including chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy.

Not bad enough? Here’s what the Breast Cancer Fund website says:

Bisphenol A (BPA) has been associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease, miscarriages, breast and prostate cancer, reproductive dysfunction, metabolic dysfunction and diabetes, and neurological and behavioral disorders (Braun, 2009; Lang, 2008; Li, 2009; Sugiura-Ogasawara, 2005).

“What’s the Fiscal Impact?”

Baby bottles should be free of BPA for our children's health. Photo: © Vibe Images - Fotolia.com

After passing 48-2 in the Iowa Senate, SF 405 will now move to the Iowa House. Seems like this should be an easy win, doesn’t it? You might think that keeping toxic chemicals out of products designed for infants and toddlers would be a slam-dunk for conservatives and liberals alike.

Yet, in today’s discussion on the floor of the Iowa Senate, some Republican lawmakers “questioned how much this legislation will cost, and whether retailers could get in trouble if products with bisphenol A … end up on their shelves,” Jennifer Jacobs wrote in today’s Des Moines Register.

Jacobs quotes the bill’s sponsor, Senator Joe Bolkcom, as responding, “What’s the fiscal impact of neonatal mortality? What’s the fiscal impact of birth defects, reduced birth weight, and miscarriages, all associated with BPA in these particular containers?”

To their credit, all but two state Senators eventually voted in favor of the bill, with Senator Shawn Hamerlinck (R-Dixon) suggesting the addition of baby bottle liners to the list of BPA-free products. Who voted against it? Senator Tom Hancock (D-Epworth) and Senator David Johnson (R-Ocheyedan).

The bill still has to get through the House.

That’s why Iowans of every political party, parents and grandparents, uncles and aunts, cousins and kin of all sorts — anyone who cares about children’s health — need to let our state representatives know what we think. It’s high time to protect Iowa’s children from the harmful effects of BPA.

Even if the bill passes the House and is enacted into law, it won’t take effect until 2013. In the meantime, you’ll have to look carefully to find a sippy cup, baby bottle, pacifier, or teething ring without BPA in it. That’s not to say they’re unavailable in Iowa, just that BPA-free baby items aren’t mandated.

Why Not More?

If BPA is so hazardous, don’t you wonder why our legislators aren’t doing more to protect all Iowans? Why only baby bottles, pacifiers, and the like?

Even if the focus is just on protecting children, don’t we also need to ban BPA from products that can harm fetuses by contamination through their mothers?

Here’s another quote from EWG:

In September 2008, the National Toxicology Program found that BPA at current human exposure levels may be toxic to the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.

At minimum, why not also ban BPA from any item that holds or comes into contact with food, beverages, or a person’s mouth?

But let’s get real.

A recent Press-Citizen.com article reported that a gentleman named John Easter argued at the capitol that the Food and Drug Administration should have the final word on BPA in canned goods. That’s because the FDA regulates such products — and the FDA says it hasn’t yet determined just how bad BPA is.

Waiting for a definitive answer from the FDA might be wise — if there weren’t already such overwhelming evidence that BPA is hazardous. So let’s consider the source: Mr. Easter is a lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council, which the Register article calls “a trade group for chemical makers and one of the most vocal opponents of any ban on BPA.”

Take Action

If the prospect of eliminating one of the many toxic chemicals that infiltrate our children’s bodies (and our own) seems sensible to you, do something. Don’t assume that your legislators will be unswayed by lobbyists such as Mr. Easter. Call your state representatives and tell them that children aren’t expendable in the name of profits.

Let them know that you will hold them accountable for their votes. If you need to, remind them that children they know and love also deserve to be protected.

And by the way, don’t forget to say thanks to the Senators who got the bill this far along. It was a bipartisan effort that we can all be proud of.

Julia Wasson

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

For More Information

Iowa Senate File 405

Tips to Avoid BPA

EWG’s Guide to Infant Formula and Baby Bottles: Safe Baby Bottle and Formula Guide