(AUGUSTA) The message from parents, physicians, scientists, and health advocates was loud and clear on Thursday: get toxic BPA out of baby and toddler food. The Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) heard from dozens of testifiers on a citizen-initiated rule that would phase out the use of the chemical BPA, or bisphenol-A, in the packaging of foods intentionally marketed to children under the age of three. This includes infant formula, baby foods, and toddler foods like Campbell’s Dora the Explorer soup and other canned foods branded with images of cartoon characters that market to preschoolers.
“No child should be exposed to toxic chemicals like BPA at the dinner table, and no parent should have to worry that the food they give their children is unsafe,” stated Jessica Graham, a mother of two from Waterville and one of the many parents who travelled to Augusta to testify. “The science is clear - BPA is dangerous; our children are exposed; and safer alternatives are available. There’s absolutely no reason to delay.”
In June of this year, a group of moms delivered over 800 petitions from Maine voters calling on the BEP to use their authority under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act to replace BPA in baby and toddler food packaging with safer alternatives that are readily available and affordable.
“Since safer alternatives are widely available, not one more child should be needlessly exposed to BPA in their food,” said Emily Figdor, Director of Environment Maine and a mother of two from Portland. “The good news is that much of the baby food on store shelves already comes in BPA-free packaging. We need this rule so we can get BPA out of the rest of baby and toddler foods and make sure all alternative packaging is truly safer.”
Concern about BPA as a toxic threat to children’s health has been growing in recent years as it has been linked to cancer, obesity, learning disabilities, male infertility, and early puberty in girls.
“Although I will never know what caused my son’s sensory challenges, many scientific studies show that exposure to BPA in the womb, during infancy, and in childhood is linked to learning and behavioral disabilities,” stated Tracy Gregoire, mother of a three-year-old with special needs. “Getting BPA out of our food will save Maine families like mine the anguish and it will also reduce the education and health care costs associated with these life-long disabilities.”
Studies show that one of the most common paths of exposure to BPA is through food. BPA is used as an epoxy liner inside metal food cans and inside the metal lids of glass jars. Testing sponsored by the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine found BPA in 11 of the 12 sampled containers of baby food. It is estimated that BPA exposure could be reduced by two thirds if food packaging were BPA-free.
Dr. Lani Graham, a family physician and former Director of the Maine Bureau of Health, spoke on behalf of the Maine Medical Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility. She stated, “We can be proud of the fact that Maine people recognize these chemical hazards for what they are – they next big epidemic. As a result, we have a chance to make a big difference for the lives of Mainers. But the chemical industry is responding as the tobacco industry has done in the past – by trying to inject doubt and blind policy makers to the realities of the evidence. We must heed the lessons of the past and be clear and uncompromising regarding the health of the next generation. There’s no good reason to expose Maine infants and children to BPA.”
The Board of Environmental Protection named BPA as Maine’s first “priority chemical” under the Kid-Safe Products Act in 2010, based on extensive scientific evidence that shows BPA is harmful to children and that children are being exposed to BPA in their food. At that time, the BEP required that BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and other reusable food and beverage containers be replaced with safer alternatives. That phase out was approved almost unanimously by the Maine Legislature. Since that time, dozens of additional peer-reviewed scientific papers have been published that add to the overwhelming evidence of BPA’s toxicity. These new studies were included in the scientific update submitted with the citizens’ petition.
Speakers at today’s hearing included nationally-recognized scientists, including Dr. Deborah Rice, a retired toxicologist with the Maine Center for Disease Control (CDC) and former Senior Risk Assessor with the US Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Rice, author of the original determination by the Maine CDC that BPA met the criteria for action under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act stated, “There is an even more compelling rationale now to decrease exposure to infants and young children to BPA. I fully support the petition to remove BPA from packaging for infant formula, toddler food, and canned goods marketed for children less than three years of age.”
Jessica Graham added, “The tobacco industry spent years putting our kids in harm’s way while they denied the science and opposed common sense protections. Let’s not let the chemical industry get away with the same thing. It's time for action. It’s time to get BPA out of our children’s food.”
The Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine is a coalition of over 50 public health, medical, parent, community, women’s, worker, environmental, and public interest organizations dedicated to protecting public health and the environment by replacing unnecessary dangerous chemicals with safer alternatives. www.cleanandhealthyme.org