On May 8, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law a bill banning bisphenol A, or BPA, from children's drinking devices like baby bottles and sippy cups.
This makes Minnesota the first state in the country to institute such a ban, and follows on the heels of a similar ban in Suffolk County, New York, which was the first county in the nation to ban BPA.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a chemical used to harden plastic, and is implicated in any number of diseases or disorders, including spontaneous miscarriages, birth defects, insulin resistance (and therefore diabetic disorders), early puberty, Down Syndrome, obesity, behavioral changes, reduced sperm count, breast cancer, impaired immune function, and changes in brain chemistry that can lead to brain damage.
Originally developed as a synthetic hormone called diethylstilbdestrol in 1936, BPA now enters the manufacturing stream in thousands of plastic items to the tune of more than six billion pounds a year. It is most dangerous to children, whose developing bodies are most impacted by BPA's negative effects on endocrine, immune and cerebrospinal functions. The American Medical Association, in a recent report, also links it with heart disease, and a report by Environmental Health suggests it may contribute to fibroid tumors in the female uterus and cystic ovarian disease.
Bisphenol A can alter the expression of hundreds of genes, and is recently being found in humans at or above levels the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, deems threshold limits for exposure before significant adverse effects occur.
Several states, such as California, Connecticut, New York and Michigan are also considering banning BPA, and in 2008 Canada banned its use in baby bottles.
In spite of studies to the contrary, the U.S Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, issued a report as recently as September of 2008 declaring BPA safe. These findings have since been challenged by a consortium of international scientists who call the research incomplete and the conclusion unreliable.
Minnesota, rarely known as an innovator like California, has effectively pre-empted a negligent and faulty FDA by refusing to allow baby products containing BPA onto Minnesota retailer's shelves, and has gone the federal government one better by also introducing legislation called the Toxic-Free Kids Act. This particular bill will require the Minnesota Department of Health to evaluate chemicals used in consumer products destined for children, and publish a list of those that are recognized health hazards.
Kate Knuth (D-New Brighton) is the bill's chief author, and says the legislation sends a clear message to manufacturers about the use of questionable chemicals.
Now that Minnesota has had the courage to say no to BPA, we can only hope other states still on the fence come down roundly on the side of banning this lethal and long-lasting chemical, whose eventual toll on health can't even be estimated.
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