Cold hard facts can only get you so far in making your case before policy-makers.
Fortunately, with a proposed ban on a toxic chemical in baby products, California health and environmental advocates have both facts and emotion on their side.
Testifying in her role as a doctor and a mom, Dr. Sarah Janssen of the Natural Resources Defense Council captured my attention as she spoke yesterday before the state Senate Environmental Quality Committee about AB 1319, the California bill that would ban the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles and sippy cups.
As folks who've been following CLCV's Groundswell blog know, I'm pregnant (I'm talking REALLY pregnant, as in I can now only wear flip-flops because my feet apparently think they are also pregnant). And as I've been researching and shopping for products for my baby, I'm blown away that anyone with access to the latest information about the dangers of BPA would defend its presence in products for infants and children. Similarly, I pay attention when someone identifies herself as “a doctor and a mom” and says we should ban a toxic chemical from baby feeding containers.
Along with bill author Assemblywoman Betsy Butler, Janssen and fellow BPA ban supporter Renée Sharp, senior scientist with Environmental Working Group, testified about the alarming number of studies (more than 220) that link BPA exposure with cancer, obesity, ADHD, and disrupted development of hormones, the brain, and the immune system.
They testified, as they had in similar Assembly policy hearings, that while safer BPA-free alternatives are widely available in many California communities, low-income families don't always have access to BPA-free products. Without a ban, products containing BPA (some of them from other countries like China, the EU, Canada, and the ten American states that have already passed or implemented bans on BPA) could easily be dumped in stores in poor California neighborhoods.
They also noted that, for the very first time this year, the burden of evidence of BPA's danger to human health is enough for several respected professional medical societies to join in supporting the ban. Just recently, the American Medical Association joined the California Medical Association, the California Nurses Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics of California, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in officially supporting a ban of BPA in feeding products for infants.
So, we've got facts and emotion on our side. But the opposition, in particular the chemical industry, has money. Lots of money. They've spent a lot of that money and time trying to, er, confuse (a nicer word than “buy off”) California legislators with “data” from other studies (many of them funded by their industry) that say there are no straight-forward conclusions about the effects of BPA on human health. Laughably, in yesterday's hearing, one of the representatives from the American Chemistry Council actually tried to convince legislators that he was genuinely concerned about the health impacts of alternatives to BPA. What utter nonsense.
Bill co-author Senator Fran Pavley spoke up, comparing the chemical industry's tactics to those used by the tobacco industry, which for years lied about the dangers of using their products and conducted their own studies to confuse the public and policy-makers alike.
As mom/doctor Sarah Janssen states in a recent post on NRDC's Switchboard: “my medical knowledge and experience aren’t enough to protect my daughter from exposure to toxic chemicals.” But a ban on BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups would go a long way to protecting our daughters and sons, when they are most vulnerable, from this dangerous chemical.
I'll end with good news: the bill passed out of the Environmental Quality Committee yesterday and now goes to the full Senate floor for a vote. Make your voice heard, and sign the petition asking legislators and Governor Jerry Brown to stand up for California kids — not the chemical industry — by passing the Toxin-Free Infants & Toddlers Act (AB 1319).