Bisphenol-A or BPA – is a chemical that has been used for more than 40 years in food and beverage packaging. It can leach out of those packages and get into food and drinks. More than a hundred peer-reviewed studies have linked bisphenol-A to health problems. Until recently the Food and Drug Administration said that our current low levels of exposure to BPA were safe. But new studies have shown subtle effects of low doses of BPA in lab animals. Based on those studies, the FDA now says it has some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.
The six major baby bottle manufacturers have voluntarily removed BPA. But BPA is still used in the linings of almost every kind of food and beverage can…including canned liquid baby formula.
Nine states have passed laws to ban certain uses of BPA in children’s products… and Michigan could be next.
Democratic State Representative Mark Meadows from East Lansing has introduced a bill to ban BPA in children’s products, and he joins me now. Representative Meadows, why do you feel this is necessary?
Meadows: Well, I think the scientific research has shown us there is a danger particularly to children and infants with regard to BPA leaching into their systems and the result of that has been like a crescendo of scientific evidence that indicates it should be banned at least in those products.
What specific products are you targeting?
Meadows: We’re targeting anything that comes in contact with children and particularly those things which contain food items so that we would be assured that at least in younger people they wouldn’t be exposed to BPA. And I think there’s been a recognition in the industry that this is coming, although the major opponents to this legislation continue to be the chemical manufacturing concerns in the United States.
Have you had any reactions from those manufacturers?
Meadows: Yes, you know, Dow Chemical of course is a big employer in the state of Michigan and they’ve been adamantly opposed to this legislation. I think though that we made some changes to the legislation to try to address some of the issues they raised with regard to it.
What changes did you make?
Meadows: We made a few changes to limit the language. One of the exclusions is bike helmets, which we need the rigidity that’s produced by BPA in those things which provide a great protection to young people.
We’ve seen laws passed in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and six other states that ban certain uses of BPA in kids’ products. What have those laws accomplished so far?
Meadows: Well they have reduced the use of BPA products with regard to children in all of those states.
How quickly would companies have to come up with alternatives under your bill?
Meadows: I can’t remember the exact phase-in period, but they would have time to come up with alternatives. But in fact the testimony we received indicated that in fact those alternatives are available now.
So your bill has passed the House Great Lakes and Environment Committee. How much support do you believe you have to bring the bill up for a vote in the House?
Meadows: You know, we would bring the bill up for a vote in the House and I think it would pass handily in fact. But because of the nature of the lame duck session we’re in right now, I do not expect it to come up for a vote this year. I think it’ll be reintroduced in January and hopefully we’ll move it through committee again next year and get a vote on the floor for it.
Mark Meadows is a Democratic State Representative from East Lansing. He has introduced a bill to ban certain uses of the chemical bisphenol-A in children’s products. Thank you so much for your time.
Meadows: No problem.
That’s the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.