Although it appeared at the end of the day yesterday that the chemical industry had succeeded in killing off Senator Dianne Feinstein’s amendment to ban the use of the toxic chemical bisphenol A in baby bottles and sippy cups, -- the Senator herself declared as much in a statement on the floor of the Senate – rumors persist that, in fact, there is a small glimmer of hope that some Senators are uncomfortable with lining up to protect chemical industry profits, rather than the nation’s infants and toddlers.
Now is a good time to get in touch with your Senators if you support Senator Feinstein’s efforts. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202) 224-3121 to be connected with your Senators, and tell them:
Our children deserve protection from the toxic chemical BPA. Please support a ban on BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups as part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
Now, the whole strategy of the industry and their Congressional allies has been to keep this fight behind closed doors and out of the eye of the public. If the Feinstein provision -- itself a significant and reasonable compromise from what she previously proposed in legislation – was ever allowed a vote on the floor of the Senate, few if any Senators would have the nerve to oppose it, and those that did would likely pay a high political cost. This is something the chemical industry knows very well, because it is exactly what happened two years ago in their battle with Senator Feinstein over phthalates. Her provision banning three phthalates from children’s products (and suspending the use of three others pending further study) was included in legislation that came to the floor of the Senate, and not a single Senator had the guts to challenge it out in the open, where the public could watch it all on C-SPAN.
So, the lobbyists for the chemical industry – which has held protections from exposure to unsafe chemicals at bay for decades – have staked their whole strategy on preventing Senator Feinstein from getting her BPA ban into the Food Safety bill that is due to come to the floor later today or tomorrow, and maneuvering to ensure she cannot get a simple vote on whether or not it should be added.
But, news of the chemical industry campaign to prevent protection of infants and children from BPA has begun to leak out. At least one of the Senators opposing Senator Feinstein’s efforts has been publicly identified – Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. It may be that, now that the cat is out of the bag, some public scrutiny of Senator Burr's position will help him reverse course. Its also possible that other Senators will hear from their constituents and speak up, even if it is behind closed doors, in support of the Feinstein amendment, rather than simply catering to the chemical industry's demands.
Really, whether your drink of preference is beer or soda, coffee or tea, whatever your personal preference, there is no way you want your kids drinking milk and juice from sippy cups or baby bottles that can leach toxic chemicals into your kid. That's just basic. Right now, too many U.S. Senators don't get it. Make a call, and help them get it.
Our Food Safety laws need to be updated badly, and the bill under consideration by the Senate is an important step in that direction. It deserves to pass the Senate and become law. More will still need to be done to reform the FDA. Including the Feinstein provision in the Food Safety Modernization Act will make a strong bill better, and it will help us move forward with ensuring our food supply isn't a constant source of exposure to unsafe toxic chemcials.
One other note: I posted a blog on this same topic yesterday. I was in a bit of a rush to leave the office (to pick up one of my kids), and in my haste I neglected to acknowledge a number of organizations that have been doing tremendous work to support Senator Feinstein in this effort, and others that are working more broadly to reform the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). I’d like to make amends here by applauding the Breast Cancer Fund, U.S. PIRG, Consumer’s Union and the Environmental Working Group for their work to support addressing the threat of BPA in our food as part of the Food Safety bill. I did mention yesterday the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families campaign, which is working on TSCA reform (NRDC Is a part of it), but didn’t provide a convenient link to the website, which lists many great health, justice, consumer and environmental groups from around the country that are fighting the chemical industry at the local, state and national levels, and trying to stem the tide of toxic chemicals that we are exposed to every day. SCHF just released a great report that shows how states are moving forward to protect the public from chemicals, way ahead of Congress here in Washington, which can’t seem to pry itself loose of the chemical industry’s stranglehold. My apologies to my colleagues.