Maine takes first step to halt use of the toxic chemical, BPA, in children’s food packaging

Last year, Gov. LePage said, “the worst case is that some women may grow little beards” from BPA exposure

By Ramona du Houx - July 19th, 2012 ·

Dana Bushee-Hernandez and Annie Colaluca, both moms from Waterville, picking up a box of petitions to carry into the DEP office

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection (BEP) accepted a petition today to begin new rules under the Kid Safe Products Act to replace the toxic chemical bisphenol A, also known as BPA, in infant formula, baby food, and toddler food with safer alternatives. The Board voted unanimously to schedule a public hearing on September 6th to consider the citizen-initiated rulemaking proposed by more than 800 Maine voters and the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.

“Maine kids are the winners today – we’re glad Maine’s BEP is starting the process of getting BPA out of baby and toddler food,” said Annie Colaluca, a mother of three from Waterville and one of the moms behind the citizen petition. “No child should eat or drink BPA in their food. It’s clear that BPA-free packaging is widely available and affordable, so more delay would be irresponsible. It’s time to act and today’s vote gets us one step closer to safe food for our children.”

The BEP vote comes on the heels of Tuesday’s decision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the use of BPA in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, and to take public comment on a proposal to restrict BPA from use in infant formula. The FDA actions reinforce the growing scientific concerns about the harmful effects of BPA on developing children. Food packaging is the major source of BPA exposure because of its widespread use as a coating on metal cans and jar lids.

“Even the industry-friendly FDA is finally taking action to restrict the use of BPA,” said Abigail King, Toxics Policy Advocate at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The FDA’s action should show Governor LePage that the Maine Legislature acted on sound science last year to limit BPA, and that more action is needed to fully protect Maine children.”

The latest state and federal actions on BPA come as a sharp rebuke to Maine Governor Paul LePage. In a statement issued on June 21, the Governor opposed safety regulations on BPA, saying: “there isn’t yet a consensus among scientists about BPA.”

Last year, Governor LePage stirred controversy with his unscientific claim that, “the worst case is that some women may grow little beards” from BPA exposure.

“The FDA is late to the dance, but welcome,” said Sierra Fletcher, Public Affairs and Policy Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “They’ve affirmed the importance of protecting kids from BPA by acting. Governor LePage is really out on a limb by himself now if he thinks Maine shouldn’t act to protect our children from BPA in their food.”

Under chemical industry pressure to delay action, the FDA has consistently postponed ruling on BPA’s safety under its obsolete and onerous process that relies primarily on industry-funded studies. Meanwhile, scientific evidence of BPA’s toxicity continues to pile up. In 2010, the Maine Center for Disease Control cited over 100 studies documenting adverse health effects in its conclusion that BPA is harmful to children.

A scientific update submitted with the petition cites an additional 69 peer-reviewed scientific papers published in the last two years that add to the overwhelming evidence of BPA’s toxicity. Dr. Laura Vandenberg, who authored the new science update , concluded that the hundreds of animal studies proving BPA’s toxicity are highly predictive of health effects in people.

Dr. Steven Feder, a Boothbay Harbor pediatrician and President of the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics remarked, “The evidence on BPA is clear and overwhelming. Well-documented science and further emerging data leave no doubt that BPA is harmful to fetuses, children and the developing brain.”

Now that the Board has voted to proceed with rule-making on the citizens’ petition, a public hearing will be held on September 6 in Augusta, followed by a public comment period lasting until September 28. Then the Board will review all the evidence and comments submitted, and vote on the proposed rule.