In the 2009 Legislative session, an attempt to ban BPA —bisphenol-A —from baby bottles, sippy cup and a variety of consumer products was defeated when 3 Democratic Senators voted the bill into a tie. In 2011, advocates returned with a modified bill, one that covered only the bottles, sippy cups and formula sold through the WIC program. This time the bill passed the Senate but, like many other progressive pieces of legislation, was defeated, not by a vote of the House but by Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna refusing to let the bill see the light of day, quashing it in committee.
Today, these efforts became moot: the FDA has now banned BPA from being used in baby bottles and sippy cups. And here’s the crazy thing: the ban came at the request, not of consumer groups or health advocates but the very same people who fought the Oregon bill in 2011 —the American Chemistry Council. But do not think the ACC acted out of the goodness of their synthesizing hearts. Rather, it simply turns out that no one is actually manufacturing bottles and cups with BPA for sale in the United States anymore.
This is like the grocery lobby asking the FDA to ban the sale of mastodon meat.
In March 2011, and then again in May, to fight SB 695, the ACC and their cronies sent high-paid, high-powered lobbyists and experts to argue in the Oregon Legislature against the BPA ban. These guys were authoritative, full of facts, and without any regard for the wishes of Oregon consumers (just as Hanna was without regard for the same, much less members of his own caucus who would have supported the bill and made it law). From their stated perspective of these hired guns, you could feed your children with nothing but BPA-saturated products and expect nothing more terrible than a booming economy and a generation of prodigies.
During the course oF the hearings, those of us ignorant of the facts in this matter learned that no major retailer was actually selling products with BPA, including Walmart which had already responded to consumer wishes dropped products but that were not BPA-free. In fact, at the time SB 695 was moving through the Leg, there was little need for it: the products had nearly disappeared from Oregon’s store shelves. However, as Senators Jason Atkinson and Chris Edwards pointed out, SB 695 was necessary for, if no other reason, than to ensure that all parents had access to safe products for their children. With no ban in place, there was no guarantee that discount stores and others might not sell products made with BPA at a price even below Walmart. To paraphrase Sen Atkinson, even poor parents deserve safe products for their children.
Today, this particular battle ends. The market has spoken: American parents do not want baby bottles or sippy cups made with BPA. The American Chemistry Council has taken belated —very belated —steps to appear pro-active by requesting the FDA to ban BPA in these products. Credit, of course, goes not to the industry that continues to use BPA in ten zillion other products but to environmental organizations and family health advocates who have been warning against this chemical for years, often to the derision of the ACC, manufacturers and nay-sayers in commerce. Of course, none of those nay-sayers will admit that anything was the least bit wrong with BPA. The chemical will remain in use in many other products that hold food and drink; consumers must still shop with care if they want to avoid the risks posed by BPA. But this particular battle has been won. American babies and toddlers are protected from at least one source of potential harm.
It’s a start. It’s not enough, but it’s a start and it gives us hope that we can see similar success with BPA, and other nasties, in products the rest of us use. For today, enjoy this good step forward for public health.
And enjoy a good laugh at the American Chemistry Council that has had its experts and propaganda thoroughly rejected by American parents who don’t need to have a danger proven beyond all doubt when it comes to their kids.
Except, of course, when it comes to guns.