Thanks specifically to then-Rep Edward Markey (D-Our Side of Almost Every Policy Fight) the FDA has finally banned BPA from any packaging material used for Baby Formula. This was the step we we’re seeking in 2011-2012 when they only banned the substance from baby bottles and sippy cups.
This is good. Plain and simple. But the BPA story is long and the fight is far from over.
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a synthetic compound used to harden plastic and prevent the growth of bacteria, because of this it is frequently used in food containers. Specifically BPA-based resins are used to coat the inside of most canned foods and BPA plastic is used for everything from packaging (salad dressing bottles, plastic jars, etc) to consumer products (cups, bottles, bowls, utensils).
BPA was discovered in 1891 and documented in 1905. Bayer and General Electric introduced the industrial processes and application of the substance in the 1950’s and it’s been in our food production ever since.
BPA is cheap, effective, easy to make, easy to use and makes many of products better. What could be the problem?
The problem is that BPA is a very effective estrogen replicator. This has been known since the 1930s. BPA was specifically researched as an estrogen therapy drug, with British Chemist Leon Golberg ultimately developing a method to synthesize a derivative of it called DES (diethylstilbestrol). Since Mr. Goldberg developed this process at the University of Oxford UK law prohibited the drug from being patented since it was developed at a public institution (How’s THAT for an awesome law?!).
The downside of this is that this very cheap and effective drug was patent free and went on to be produced around the world and approved by the US FDA in 1941 for everything from gonorrhea, to postpartum lactation suppression to prostate cancer to ovarian failure and in a wonderful medical treatment of days-gone-by it was given to prepubescent girls to close off the growth plates in their developing bones in order to prevent the lamentable and utterly unfeminine condition called “Excess Height”.
This was all stopped in 1971 when it was clear that pumping estrogen replicators into women, men and girls causes cancer and since it was given to pregnant women to prevent miscarriages we now have generations of what came to be known as “DES daughters” and “DES sons” that have major hormone-related disorders and elevated cancer rates through multiple generations.
The lawsuits started in the 70’s, eventually led to the California decision of Sindell v. Abbott Laboratories and continue to this day where 53 DES daughters brought a case to Federal Court against multiple drug makers with the claim that their breast cancers are a result of the DES prescribed to their mothers while they were in utero. The case was recently settled back in January of this year.
And so…. despite all of this sordid history with the nefarious estrogen replicator DES and despite the American Medical Association on the record with an official policy labeling BPA as an endocrine-disrupting agent…. ..the American Chemistry Council is still somehow convinced this is all perfectly safe.
Except that we are learning more and more that its not.
BPA exposure, even at very low levels, is being found more and more to have negative effects, specifically contributing to obesity and causing an early onset of puberty in young girls.
When very young children are exposed it has been found to increase asthma risk, cause urological disorders, thyroid conditions, as well as links to brain and breast tumors.
So despite knowing that BPA was an estrogen replicator since the 1930’s and knowing estrogen replicators cause all kinds of health issues since the 70’s we still somehow find it A-OK to
accept lobbying money from BPA manufacturers legalize BPA for wide-spread use including food and children’s items.
And the finger-pointing at the lobbyists is not unfounded here. The Washington Post covered the specific strategies being devised and ruthlessly implemented to prevent any kind of ban on their profitable industry. From truly disgusting things like:
The attendees estimated it would cost $500,000 to craft a message for a public relations campaign, according to the notes. "Their 'holy grail' spokesperson would be a 'pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country about the benefits of BPA,' " the notes said.To the simple our-scientists-are-better-than-your-scientists tactic we’ve seen with everything from tobacco addiction to climate change:
Despite more than 100 published studies by government scientists and university laboratories that have raised health concerns about the chemical, the Food and Drug Administration has deemed it safe largely because of two studies, both funded by a chemical industry trade group.However, even the most well-paid lobbyist has to admit that having a product that is linked to baby-poisoning is not going to be a good PR position, and so the industry started to move.
As of 2011, every manufacturer had phased BPA out of baby bottles and sippy cups. This allowed the FDA to oh-so-boldly step up in July 2012 and BAN BPA from all baby bottles and sippy cups. That’s right… a formal “Stop doing what you already stopped doing so everyone can see you’ve stopped doing it” ruling. The American Chemistry Council actually petitioned the FDA to make this
public relations advertisement ruling for them in order to “clarify the issue” and “boost consumer confidence”.
That may seem a bit toothless, but its still progress. The industry knew it was still on the ropes and kept moving to remove BPA from all packaging material (specifically the epoxy resin used to line the cans) for all infant formula. Since that is now complete, we see this new “ban” from the FDA.
The next step is to ban BPA from all food packaging and/or label anything that contains BPA.
The ACC is still dumping a hell of a lot of lobby money to stop this but Diane Feinstein is already pushing on the labeling front and Ed Markey has introduced a Ban Poisonous Additives Act (Clever bill acronym on that one, eh?) to ban this stuff outright.
If the new standard is to let the industry work to stop the activity and then ban it, meh.. whatever… seems a bit weak but I’ll take whatever route we need to use to get this poison out of our food, homes and children’s mouths.