BPA ban: 2 years (and 2 kids) later

Jul 25, 2013
By Jenesse Miller

I'm a mom with two amazing children: my 2-year-old Finn and my 6-month-old Suzy. We just visited their pediatrician to check their weights, their heights, and to make sure that, despite my concerns, my toddler's tantrums are well within the "normal" range.

Time sure does fly.

Two years ago, I was pregnant with Finn and working hard to get our priority bills passed before the 2011 legislative session closed. One bill struck pretty darn close to home: AB 1319, the Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act. AB 1319 would ban BPA (the dangerous toxic chemical bisphenol-A) from baby bottles and sippy cups.

BPA has been linked to cancer, obesity, ADHD, and disrupted development of hormones, the brain, and the immune system in more than 220 peer-reviewed studies.

But the chemical industry had stopped similar proposals before. AB 1319's author, then-Assemblymember Betsy Butler, and principal co-author Senator Fran Pavley, both worked tirelessly to overcome industry opposition. Other lawmakers and several groups (including CLCV) – plus the tremendous force of thousands of grassroots advocates for the environment, children and public health helped AB 1319 triumph over the chemical companies who tried to kill it.

The BPA ban passed in 2011 after a tough fight and some incredibly close votes, but it finally took effect just weeks ago (July 1, 2013).

Thanks to AB 1319, California law now specifically prohibits the manufacture, sale or distribution of bottles or cups designed for children 3 and under that contain BPA at a level above 0.1 parts per billion. The law also requires manufacturers to use the least toxic alternative when replacing BPA.

Revisiting blogs I wrote during the fight to pass AB 1319, challenges I'd forgotten are coming back to me – political challenges, but also physical. I literally laughed out loud when I stumbled across my blog about visiting the Capitol in person, when my feet thought they were also pregnant.

But my swollen feet carried me through the environmental community's Advocacy Day. They walked me to the offices of lawmakers and their staff, and helped me hold my ground while I asked them to vote "Yes" on the BPA ban.

I was a little surprised when legislative aides told me that the lawmaker they worked for was planning on voting "No." Well, okay, I wasn't that surprised – I had researched the influence of the chemical industry's money in Sacramento, and I was aware that many California lawmakers accepted donations from the chemical industry. 

Keep in mind, this is an industry that funded its own studies to try to prove this toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemical was actually "safe."

It was hard not to take the opposition to AB 1319 personally. Away from work, I was shopping for baby products (including bottles) and hunting for "BPA-free" on the labels. I knew (and still know) moms who couldn't afford to buy new bottles to feed their babies and moms who bought their toddlers' sippy cups at the dollar store. It shouldn't have been a luxury to feed our children with non-toxic containers, but that's exactly what it was.

I knew without a doubt that parents – especially disadvantaged parents – needed this law to help protect our kids from BPA exposure. So I was thrilled when, days after I returned from maternity leave, Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law. The Toxin-Free Infants and Toddlers Act was a hard-fought victory for families, public health, and our environment, and AB 1319 started a ripple effect across the nation.

A year later in 2012 (a few days after my son's first birthday), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finally ordered baby bottles and children’s drinking cups to be BPA-free. Thanks in part to California's policy leadership, chemical companies gave up on this particular fight.

Then in April this year, California added BPA to its official list of chemicals known to cause birth defects. The state's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment agency cited a report by the National Toxicology Program that BPA "causes reproductive toxicity...at high doses." (Note that this designation doesn't ban BPA from other consumer products; in other words, pregnant moms still need to undertake extensive research to avoid BPA in items not covered by AB 1319).

So here we are in July 2013, and my husband and I are doing everything we can to keep up with our kids. We couldn't be happier with the pediatrician's reports – and we couldn't be more proud of Finn and Suzy. Their eyes are bright and their ears are clear. They are healthy and happy, and we are grateful.

I'm grateful for my family. I'm proud that California has courageous leaders like Betsy Butler and Fran Pavley. I'm constantly inspired by the hard work and passion of grassroots activists like you. For me, it's all tied in and part of being Mom, and here's one thing I know for sure: Parents and caregivers in every California family have enough to worry about. Feeding our children with non-toxic containers should be a given, and now it is.

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