The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
July 16, 2009

BPA: California let us down. The Smart Mama’s Green Guide can help.

I’m kind of sad this morning. I just learned that yesterday, California’s Developmental and Reproductive Toxicant Identification Committee voted not to add Bisphenol A (BPA) to the state’s list of chemicals that are believed to cause reproductive harm under Prop 65. The board members said that “none of the studies they reviewed offered clear evidence of the chemical’s toll on human health.”

You can read more about BPA, where it’s found, and why we should care in the following Fake Plastic Fish posts:

Bisphenol-A (aka BPA): What is it? Where is it? Why do we care?

More BPA! Bisphenol-A in our Kids.

I want to know how much harm must be done before the evidence is clear. And why must our children be the guinea pigs for toxic chemicals in the first place? The European Union follows the Precautionary Principle in deciding whether measures should be taken to protect human health. Specifically,

“The precautionary principle may be invoked where urgent measures are needed in the face of a possible danger to human, animal or plant health, or to protect the environment where scientific data do not permit a complete evaluation of the risk.” from Europa Studies of EU Legislation

The United States does not follow this principle. According to Jennifer Taggart in Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure,icon

“While TSCA [Toxic Chemicals Control Act] places the burden on the EPA to establish a chemical poses an unreasonable risk before it will control production or use, the European Union (EU) regulates chemicals differently. The EU’s Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals (REACH) law generally place the burden on the chemical companies to ensure that chemicals do not pose risks to human health or the environment before they are used.”

BEFORE THEY ARE USED! They don’t wait to see if consumers get hurt!

Since we have such lax protection from possibly toxic chemicals in the United States, we are indebted to people like Jennifer Taggart, who also happens to be a member of the Green Moms Carnival and my friend, whose book can help us understand the risks posed by various chemicals and what we can do to avoid them.

I started reading Smart Mama’s Green Guideiconon BART yesterday and couldn’t put it down. And while I don’t have children myself, I was particularly struck by the next to last chapter of her introduction, which speaks to all of us:

I believe that small changes make a difference. I believe that the small changes add up. I believe that we are all connected to each other and this world. Perhaps because we are connected, it is foolish to think that we can be healthy in an unhealthy world by making individual changes in our lifestyles and improving our individual buying habits. But I believe I should try. I believe that while I don’t make our policies, I can shape them. I believe that by making my home safer for my children, I make the world a little bit safer for every living thing.

Like I said, I just started reading the book yesterday and haven’t gotten very far. I was going to wait and write about it after I’d read the whole thing. But after yesterday’s news, I couldn’t wait. Because this is the kind of information we all need to have to make our own decisions for ourselves and our families. We certainly can’t wait for the government to do it for us.
 

Disclosure: If you use the Barnes & Noble links above to purchase The Smart Mama’s Green Guide, My Plastic-free Life earns a small percentage.

6 comments
Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama
Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama

Hi Beth. Thanks so much for mentioning my book. As for Christine's friend comments, this probably isn't the place to debate all of the various studies, problems with the studies, relevance to human exposure, dosing methodologies, etc. That being said, the NTP's report found "some concern" (a 3 on a 5 point scale) for fetal exposure (among other issues). Given that, why take the chance if you are pregnant or getting pregnant? Not to mention that there may be effects for adult exposure. Given that, why not look for alternatives?

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Christine. Thanks for that information. What I'm concerned about are the effects on babies, whose bodies are not yet fully developed. Jennifer's book goes into detail about how some chemicals that are basically harmless for adults can be tragically toxic for babies in their first years because their bodies aren't yet able to fully process chemicals like ours are.This morning, I read a study that basically said there was not enough data to assess the risk to newborns. What parent wants their kids to be the used as lab mice to determine if a chemical is harmful or not?So I guess the question to ask is whether or not we actually need BPA. Do we actually need polycarbonate bottles? Is there a safer alternative to BPA in cans? Eden Foods thinks its found one by going back to the vegatable-based epoxy that was used before the advent of BPA. I wonder if your friend has any info/opinion in that.

Christine
Christine

Here is a little further BPA information from a good friend of mine. I sited an article to him about the negative effects of BPA here:http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/2009-releases/bpa-chemical-plastics-leach-polycarbonate-drinking-bottles-humans.html, and he responded with this information. Take it or leave it: "First, I applaud you for looking into this and reading up on it. So please don't take anything I am about to write as personal or critical in any way whatsoever. I just happen to know quite a bit on this subject and have grown increasingly frustrated over the past year as the media has driven this non-issue.Secondly, this article is incredibly misleading. What they don't tell you is that BPA doesn't come out of urine as BPA. It comes out as glucoronidated-BPA. BPA goes in to the gut, absorbed, and hits the liver, the liver glucoronidates the BPA. Glucoronidated-BPA is effectively non-toxic. You may ask, why does this matter?The article states, "Numerous studies have shown that it acts as an endocrine-disruptor in animals, including early onset of sexual maturation, altered development and tissue organization of the mammary gland and decreased sperm production in offspring. It may be most harmful in the stages of early development."What they don't tell you is these studies inject BPA directly into the gut of mice, thereby by-passing the liver glucoronidation. If you perform the study by administering BPA orally (within the diet) then you have to go up to 600 mg/kg/day in order to see effects in the most sensitive species (mouse). In fact, 50 mg/kg/day is a clear no effect level. That would equal 2.5 grams of pure BPA monomer/day for a 50 kg person as being the safe level. To put it in more concrete terms, that would mean 0.5 grams for baby Julian.I don't plan on grinding up baby bottles and injecting them into myself.Thirdly, we know SOOOOOOOO much about BPA. We have millions upon million of dollars worth of excellent studies that show clear effects at astronomical doses when used by the relevant route. Anything is toxic when applied at a high enough dose. My cup of coffee contains hundreds of chemicals and specifically 7 well recognized human carcinogens. I trust using BPA because we know so much and we know we are over 1,000 fold lower in exposure than what could cause problems. We don't know so much about potential replacements for BPA to use in bottles, bicycle helmets, the functional lining of cans, etc...There are certainly things to be concerned about. In, my opinion at least, BPA is a poison of the mind."

Anaquita
Anaquita

Unfortunatel the American way seems to be "The burden of proof is on the consumers". :| Applies to chemical laden things, like cans, plastic bottles, and well pretty much with everything else.Like genetically altered vegetables. Which is over 70% in the markets. Not that they tell you this, or clearly mark them.Had long debates about this in college.

Amber
Amber

That's so disappointing.I have 2 little kids and I agree. I don't want them to be the guinea pigs. It's not about BPA, really, it's about the way that we approach chemicals and human health. This is just one other sad example.

Green Bean
Green Bean

Man. that's a bummer! I'm usually so proud of our state. We may not be able to balance a budget or educate our young or staff our parks but dammit we can usually stand up for environmental issues.