Advocates call on County Exec. Levy to Protect Babies from BPA
Suffolk County residents gathered today with children’s health advocates from across the state at a hearing for the Toxin-Free Toddlers and Babies Act, to call on County Executive Steve Levy to sign the important initiative to safeguard children’s health. Earlier this month, the Suffolk County Legislature took the groundbreaking step of unanimously passing the bill, 18-0, sponsored by Legislator Steve Stern (D-Huntington, 16th L.D.) (Intro. 1017), becoming the first jurisdiction in the nation to restrict the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in children’s products.
“We applaud County Executive Levy for his strong leadership in cancer prevention and protecting public health. We look forward to him signing this bill,” Legislator Stern said.
“Suffolk County has always taken the lead in protecting public health. We must follow the precautionary principle and be pro-active, especially when the health of our most vulnerable citizens, our babies and young children, is at risk and safe alternatives are available. This new law will help reduce unnecessary exposure to a substance linked with multiple health risks,” Stern added.
The bill bans the sale in Suffolk County of BPA-containing baby bottles and sippy cups intended for children three years of age or younger. “In passing this groundbreaking legislation, Suffolk County has affirmed that protecting the health of children is a top priority,” said Dr. Maida Galvez, from Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center.
Dr. Maricel Maffini, Tufts University School of Medicine, notes that “There is enough scientific evidence to conclude that low dose exposure to BPA during critical periods of development, such as fetal life and early childhood, contributes to behavioral disorders, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, breast and prostate cancer and infertility in lab animals. It is time to eliminate BPA from products that expose the most vulnerable populations.”
Advocacy organizations note that this success has been a long time in the making. Long Island’s work on BPA was spearheaded by the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, and has grown with the leadership of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition, with assistance from NYPIRG, Clean New York, Learning Disabilities Association of NYS, Long Island Teen Environmental Action and others from the statewide JustGreen Partnership. Representatives from the Consumer’s Union and the Center for Health, Environmental and Justice also testified.
BPA has been the subject of significant scrutiny as of late. Hundreds of scientific studies have linked BPA – a synthetic sex hormone – to serious health problems ranging from heart disease to breast cancer to infertility. The chemical is used in many common products like plastic food containers, the lining of food and soda cans and "aseptic" packaging like juice boxes and certain paper products.
“The eyes of the nation are on us. March 3, 2009, Suffolk County legislators voted decisively to ban the sale of baby bottles and sippy cups that contain the chemical BPA. With a stroke of his pen we're counting on Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to enact this local law, safeguarding our children's health,” said Karen Miller, President of Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, who delivered over 200 postcards signed by local residents in support of the bill.
Out of concern for health impacts, Canada has banned the chemical in children’s products. The ban in Suffolk County has set the stage and provided momentum for legislation in eighteen states, including Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey, Vermont and New York. US Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congressman Ed Markey introduced federal BPA restricting legislation last Friday. Both state and federal restrictions could take longer to pass and implement, however, prompting proponents of the Suffolk legislation to urge a swift signing of the bill.
"BPA stands for Bisphenol A, but when parents shop for their kids it should stand for ‘Bad Product Alert,” said Sarah Moeller, Project Coordinator with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). “It’s time to stop this massive experiment that is using children and other consumers to see just how many toxic substances the human body can bear. Suffolk County should be proud to be on the leading edge of preventive action to protect public health and safety, particularly for young children.”
Already this month, six major baby bottle manufacturers - Avent, Disney, First Years, Gerber, Dr. Brown, Playtex and Evenflo - have vowed to change their products so they no longer contain BPA. Major chains in the area including King Kullen, Waldbaum’s, CVS, and Target have stated publicly that they already comply or will have no problem doing so. Plastic manufacturing giant Sunoco released a statement last week that they will now require their customers to guarantee that bisphenol A manufactured by Sunoco is not being used in food and water contact applications for children under three years of age. They will no longer sell BPA to customers who cannot make that promise.
As the County Executive’s hearing unfolded, two Long Island Assemblymen, Steve Englebright and Robert Sweeney, and Buffalo Senator Antoine Thompson, held a news conference in Albany to announce introduction of a state bill on Bisphenol A, which is on tomorrow’s Senate Environmental Conservation Committee (chaired by Sen. Thompson) agenda. The legislators and advocates present credited the Suffolk County legislature for helping to propel the issue forward and for leading the way.
"Future generations will thank the leaders in Suffolk County for being a national model by banning BPA in children’s products. This action has been a long time forthcoming," said Laura Weinberg, president of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition.
Levy has until April 2nd to sign the legislation.