Health

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Lauren Victoria Burke/AP
Connecticut Attorney General
Richard Blumenthal

Are BPA Marketers Purposely Misleading the Public?

June 17, 2009 06:30 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says chemical lobbyists and others are using "fear tactics" to convince people that the controversial chemical is safe.

Industry Used Confusion Tactics, Says Attorney

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Blumenthal says that the chemical industry may have broken Connecticut law in its attempt to stop legislation that would ban the use of bisphenol-A or BPA, a substance used to make food containers and some reusable plastic bottles, including baby bottles and infant food jars. He says that misleading consumers is a violation of the state law.

After Minnesota, the bill would make Connecticut the second state to ban BPA.

"We're here to tell the industry that they cannot stop the laws that are necessary to protect against BPA," Blumenthal said, according to the Connecticut Post. "I am particularly offended that the industry's reported notes say that they are targeting Connecticut and California for the kinds of political fear tactics and manipulation that combines confusion with concealment."

BPA has been the target of many often confusing debates about its safety in recent months, after animal tests showed it could cause health problems, including developmental problems in fetuses and young children.
Blumenthal's comments follow the leak of a memo from a private industry meeting of several major companies. The memo included potential marketing strategies for BPA, such as getting a pregnant woman to serve as spokeswoman for the product, reports The Boston Globe's The Green Blog.

Blumenthal says he will investigate the situation, and has written to some of the major companies that attended the meeting to get details on the tactics discussed, including American Chemistry Council, Alcoa, Coca-Cola Company, Crown Packaging Inc. and Del Monte Foods.

Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, co-chairman of the Environment Committee, said that he, too, is aware of an "extreme lobbying effort against the bill," according to the Connecticut Post. He said the industry may try to promote BPA as safe, but tests are proving that it is not.

"It's so toxic that Canada put it on its list of toxic chemicals," Meyer said. "I found it very difficult to hear the representations that it is a safe chemical."

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Background: Conflicting information confuses consumers

A report issued by the National Toxicology Program in April 2008 reported that there is “some concern” that BPA may cause developmental problems in infants and children.

The findings were based on animal experiments, but the group of scientists said health effects on humans could not be ruled out. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, stated that BPA was safe for humans, confusing consumers. Meanwhile, several senators introduced a bill that would ban the use of the chemical in children's products.

In March, after months of conflicting advice, some companies took steps to remove BPA from baby products and Congress introduced legislation that would prohibit it.

"The scientific evidence is mounting that BPA poses serious health risks, especially to children, and manufacturers and retailers have already started to pull items from their store shelves," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., one of the sponsors of the House bill, told Agence France-Presse at the time.

Opinion & Analysis: What’s a consumer to do?

With all the conflicting advice from government agencies, consumers may not know whether to use products conducting BPA or even how to avoid the products.

During the original BPA debates last year, University of Minnesota newspaper The Minnesota Daily suggested being careful with plastics that contain BPA, but not overzealous. “We don’t suggest that everyone who owns a Nalgene bottle stampede to toss them in the recycling bin, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. If yours is damaged, it may be time to retire it, and it would be wise to avoid putting it in the microwave or dishwasher where the heat could release toxins.”

For those worried about potential, if not confirmed, health problems associated with BPA in products, avoiding the chemical as much as possible may be the best option. After the National Toxicology Program’s original findings were released, The Washington Post published a piece on how to limit BPA exposure, including washing hard plastic bottles by hand, not in the dishwasher; eating more fresh or frozen foods to avoid the BPA found in canned food linings; and never heating polycarbonate plastic bottles, which can make the chemicals leach out of containers.

Reference: National Toxicology Program and FDA findings

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