Article and photo by Ramona du Houx

June 17, 2010

Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has recommended a ban on the use of the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles, sippy cups, water bottles, and other reusable food and beverage containers.

“When it comes to toxic chemicals, it doesn’t get much worse than Bisphenol-A. This chemical is not only dangerous, it is everywhere. From baby bottles to pizza boxes, from canned food to credit card receipts, BPA is getting into our systems and causing serious health effects,” said Michael Belliveau, Executive Director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center. “We applaud DEP’s prosposal to ban BPA from baby bottles and make it Maine’s first Priority Chemical. This will immediately protect children and help consumers get good information about other products that contain BPA.”

To complete the next step in implementing Maine’s groundbreaking Kid-Safe Products Act, the DEP is also recommending BPA as Maine’s first “Priority Chemical” under the new law. The Board of Environmental Protection has voted to hold a public hearing on the proposal on August 19th and accept written comments through August 30th.

Bisphenol-A was developed over a century ago and was considered for use as an estrogen replacement therapy in the 1930’s. BPA is now a chemical building block for polycarbonate plastic and is also used in the epoxy resins that line food cans, including many infant formula cans. Exposure to BPA comes from eating food or drinking water stored in containers that have BPA. Small children may be exposed by hand-to-mouth and direct oral contact with materials containing BPA. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies.

BPA exposure has been linked to a significant number of health problems, especially reproductive and developmental problems.

“The evidence against BPA is overwhelming. It has been connected to learning and behavioral disabilities such as ADHD, breast and prostate cancer, reproductive damage, diabetes, and obesity. Exposure to BPA in the womb, during infancy, or in childhood can set the stage for a lifetime of health problems,” said Sandra Cort, Board Member and Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of Maine.

“The cost of BPA for Maine families and Maine’s economy is both staggering and preventable. We are pleased that the DEP has made BPA its first and top priority.”

Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act was passed overwhelming by the Legislature in 2008. Under the law, the Maine DEP has already identified 1700 Chemicals of High Concern. Now the DEP has until January 2011 to name at least two of these as Priority Chemicals. Such a designation triggers a requirement that manufacturers disclose which products they sell in Maine that contain these Priority Chemicals. The law also empowers DEP to propose the use of safer alternatives in consumer products to which children are exposed.

Representative Hannah Pingree, Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, sponsored the Kid-Safe Products Act and continues to champion the importance of getting toxic chemicals out of everyday consumer products.

Pingree remarked, “We’ve waited for this day for a long time. I’m very pleased to see BPA be recommended as our first Priority Chemical. It’s good to see Maine take a stand on BPA like so many other states and countries have done. Let’s face it, no child should be exposed to toxic chemicals when they play with their favorite toys or eat their favorite meals.”

Five other states have already banned BPA in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups, some have banned its use in infant formula cans and sports bottles, and action is pending in at least a dozen others. Denmark recently banned BPA in all infant food packaging while Canada and France have banned BPA in baby bottles. Japan asked manufacturers for voluntary restriction of BPA from canned food in 1998 and saw a decline in their population’s levels of contamination.

Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Law allows restrictions on food packaging when it is intentionally marketed for children under age three.