A New Chemical Age


by Ben Lilliston | May 12, 2009 • Last week, Minnesota became the first state in the country to ban the toxic chemical bisphenol A (BPA) from baby bottles and “sippy” cups. Perhaps just as importantly, the state passed the Toxic Free Kids Act, which takes the first step toward creating a broader system to assess toxic chemicals in children’s products. Healthy Legacy, a broad-based public health coalition co-chaired by IATP, led the campaign to pass both of these bills. The effort is part of a national push to get the federal government to catch up with the science on toxic chemicals and start protecting children’s health.

Think Forward is a blog written by staff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy covering sustainability as it intersects with food, rural development, international trade, the environment and public health. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

BPA is a hormone disruptor that is found in many common household products. Unfortunately, BPA leaches out of plastic bottles, cups and food liners, particularly when heated, and contaminates food, beverages and ultimately, the human body. More than 200 studies have found that low-dose exposures to BPA are linked to heart disease, cancer, neurological impairments and reproductive problems. You can watch IATP’s Kathleen Schuler on the public TV show “Almanac” discuss the Minnesota BPA victory.

There are other BPA ban bills pending in California, Connecticut, Michigan and New York. Many retailers and manufacturers are already eliminating BPA from their products, including Wal-Mart, Toys “R” Us and Sears. In addition, the nation’s six largest baby bottle manufacturers announced this spring that they have eliminated or will phase out BPA from their product lines. And in Congress, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) have introduced bills that would ban BPA.

Earlier this year, we interviewed Dr. Peter Myers, co-author of Our Stolen Future, about toxic chemicals and public health. According to Dr. Myers, “The science has galloped forward in our understanding between environment health, while the policy world has lagged far behind…Our health standards are in the scientific Jurassic. They are so out of date, we know we cannot count on them to protect public health.”

In January, a General Accountability Office report backed up Dr. Myers’ assessment, finding that the Environmental Protection Agency lacks basic information to assess chemicals. Last week’s victories in Minnesota are a first step toward bringing regulation of toxic chemicals into the modern age.

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