I’m a big fan of California. I’m almost as far from the state as I could be, here in Vermont, but I usually wholeheartedly agree with the environmental and public health decisions made by the California legislature to protect their citizens.
The ban on phthalates for one. The chemical and toxin labeling law (hence all those “May Cause Cancer in the State of California” labels you see all over cheap goods from China). And the higher fuel efficiency standards, which have considerably reduced smog. Then, they were poised to ban BPA (bisphenol A and PFOA (a chemical in food wrapping). No dice.
What happened? In a close vote, the California legisture voted not to ban BPA and PFOA.
The FDA has long defended the use of BPA in plastics, citing studies done by the manufacturers of the chemical and the products that contain it. Again, they defended their stance about in the New York Times last week. Here is a breakdown of the studies done all over the world that share a much different view of BPA then the FDA states.
The timing of the FDA’s announcement is also suspect, coming only days before California’s vote on a BPA ban. Renee Sharp, Senior Analyst with the Environmental Working Group said (on Yuba.net):
“The timing of the announcement by FDA raises eyebrows considering the California legislature is about to vote on a measure to remove the toxic chemical from some children’s products. BPA has been linked to altered brain development, behavioral changes and prostate problems in animals and should not be used in any consumer products that could potentially leach into food and liquids, especially in products young children use every single day. We have long since lost faith in FDA’s ability to be an impartial authority on BPA’s safety. Time and again, FDA has sided with special interests instead of the public interest on this chemical.”
Canada, Europe, and several other states (most recently Maine) are taking, or considering taking, a more thoughtful, precautionary approach regarding chemicals in everyday products, especially for children. Maybe BPA isn’t that harmful by itself. But what about when it is added to our children’s everyday chemical load? There are so many ways their little bodies can come into contact with potentially damaging chemicals, from their toothpastes, shampoos, food, frying pans, shower curtains— there has to be some looking at the cumulative effects versus thinking of each chemical in a vacuum. In education, we like to think about educating the whole child, taking different learning styles, personalities and backgrounds into consideration. Why, then, should we just consider the effect of this chemical or that on the human body? Haven’t we learned that all things are connected, in nature and in chemistry?
If you live in California, you can take action to support a more comprehensive approach to toxic chemicals that the legislature is considering. This seems like a similar bill that was just passed in Maine, giving the state more power to test, regulate and manage chemicals used in products.