Thank you for the opportunity to testify about Senate Bill 213 on behalf of the National Research Center for Women & Families and our Cancer Prevention and Treatment Fund.
Our Center is dedicated to improving the health and safety of adults and children, and we do that by scrutinizing medical and scientific research to determine what is known and not known about specific health and safety issues.
In addition, I am a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics, a resident of Maryland, and I was previously the chair of the Women’s Health Promotion Council for the state of Maryland, appointed by the Governor.
I was trained in epidemiology and public health at Yale Medical School; was on the faculty at Yale and Vassar; and directed a longitudinal research project at Harvard, and I bring that scientific perspective to my testimony today. I have worked on health policy issues in Congress, the White House, and for nonprofit organizations for 26 years.
Our Center strongly supports Senate Bill 213, which will help to ensure that Maryland’s children are better protected from the adverse health effects of BPA.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make plastics, and is frequently used in baby bottles, water bottles, and medical devices. It is also used in an epoxy coating on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans-including infant formula cans.
We think of plastic as being solid, but research shows that BPA leaches out of the plastic or epoxy lining into the liquid or food in the container. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the bodies of more than 93 percent of the U.S. population studied.
BPA mimics and interferes with estrogen-an important hormone in reproduction and development. Scientists are concerned about BPA’s behavioral effects on fetuses, infants, and children at current exposure levels, and whether it can increase the risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer, cause early puberty, or affect the brain and behavior.
There is research that claims that the levels of BPA in consumer products are not harmful, but that research is funded by companies with financial ties to BPA. It is not objective research, and it is not credible research. That is why the FDA has finally admitted their concerns about BPA and is funding new research to better understand the risks and the FDA is working with companies to decrease or eliminate BPA in its area of jurisdiction (such as food and beverage containers). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is also providing information to consumers on how to reduce exposure to BPA.
While the federal government is studying BPA, who is protecting Maryland’s children? Parents shouldn’t need a PhD in chemistry when they shop for baby bottles, infant formula, and children’s products. Most parents assume that potentially harmful chemicals are not allowed in products made for children. If only that were true.
New Research Shows BPA Increases Health Risks
A study published last month based on a major government data set, the NHANES, found that adults with higher levels of BPA in their urine were more likely to have heart disease, even when other variables were statistically controlled. That study replicated the findings of an earlier study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found a link between BPA levels and diabetes and heart disease, even when obesity was statistically controlled. While this shows that BPA in adults is potentially very harmful, remember that these types of health problems can start in childhood. That’s why this bill is so important.
If a pregnant woman is exposed to BPA, then even before her child is born, he or she will be exposed to the chemical. Pregnant women don’t have a special diet of canned foods and beverages-they eat the same food as everyone else. That’s why we need to be concerned about BPA exposure from all containers for foods and beverages commonly consumed by adults. And, of course, we need to remove BPA from liquid infant formula cans.
BPA may interfere with chemotherapy, especially for breast cancer patients. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in February 2009 found that the effectiveness of chemotherapy could be undermined by exposure to BPA among breast cancer patients. This means that BPA in all foods and beverages consumed by adults are potentially dangerous for chemotherapy patients.
Senate Bill 213 explicitly states that BPA may not be replaced with chemicals rated by the EPA as carcinogens or reproductive toxicants. Safer alternatives to BPA are available. Japan has reduced BPA in consumer products, such as canned beverages and plastic tableware. They are using different linings for beverage cans that are much safer, and plastic tableware that had BPA has been replaced with tableware that does not. Canada has designated BPA as the highest priority chemical in need of regulation and in effect has banned its use in infant products.
Several cities and states across the U.S. have weighed the scientific evidence and are seeking to implement bans. Suffolk County in New York became the first in the U.S. to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, in March 2009. In Congress, bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (S. 593/H.R. 1523) to ban BPA in children’s products. However, given the numerous stalemates in the U.S. Congress, it is crucial that Maryland protects its children by passing Senate Bill 213.
Responsible retailers are not waiting for state or federal governments to act. Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us have pledged to remove products containing BPA from their shelves. Bottle manufacturers, such as Playtex and Nalgene, are using non-BPA materials for their products. SUNOCO, a BPA manufacturer, announced last year that it would require customers to confirm that no BPA would be used in food or water containers for children under 3 years of age. Despite this progress, however, baby bottles and child care articles with BPA are still being sold and being used by our babies and children in Maryland and most other states.
Keeping Consumers Safe
The bottom line is that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that the cumulative exposures to BPA are endangering our children and probably also adults. More than 100 well-designed scientific studies, many conducted by independent researchers without conflicts of interest, have raised doubts about the safety of BPA. And, safer alternatives to BPA are available. If we want to protect our babies and children in Maryland, then it is important to ban BPA in infants’ and children’s products.
Thank you for your leadership by holding a hearing on Senate Bill 213. We strongly urge you to support this important bill and join with us in finding ways to better protect Maryland’s children and adults from the risks of BPA.
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