I'm the mother of a 13-year old girl. On any given day I'm somewhere on the scale of mildly concerned to ridiculously fearful of the hazards she faces in life. There's the obvious stuff like girlfriend/boyfriend drama, safety issues as she strolls or bikes through town, academic performance and future job potential, peer pressures on body image; you name it.
But because my day job requires me to read a lot of scientific literature and consider effective policies to protect people's health, what really concerns me is the way the health of my daughter has already been impacted by her lifetime exposure to highly toxic chemicals like bisphenol-A, or BPA. BPA is everywhere: in the lining of food and beverage cans; in receipt paper; in a wide range of plastics including shatter-resistant water bottles, toddler sippy cups, baby bottles and other common items. BPA is a chemical that acts like a fake hormone in our bodies and can cause a wide range of chronic illnesses, reproductive disorders and defects such as diabetes, obesity, early puberty, breast and other cancers, decreased sperm count and more.
The Food and Drug Administration position on BPA is that the chemical is OK in some amounts. The FDA has set an acceptable exposure level based on some science, and more finger-crossing, that enables companies to keep making BPA and us to be exposed unwillingly. Other independent scientists and health groups have been studying the effects of BPA, too, and have reached the conclusion that exposing our bodies to a toxic, fake hormone chemical has no benefit and a lot of risk of harm. Animal studies clearly indicate even a small amount of BPA is already causing trouble.
Based on this information, moms, dads and other consumers and voters all over the country have been clamoring for companies to remove BPA from their products. Fortunately, many companies have already responded. Seven states and Canada have labeled BPA a toxic threat and have passed laws phasing out or banning BPA in specific products that would allow exposure of our most vulnerable population: infants and children.
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As a parent, I act on the health and safety of my child all the time even if I don't know for sure she'll be injured or hurt. I make her wear a helmet when she bikes and a seatbelt when we're in the car. I give her healthy food, ensure she gets exercise and a decent amount of sleep (most of the time). I remind her to wash her hands to avoid getting colds and the flu. It just makes sense that I also buy BPA-free products whenever possible.
What I really want is for Congress and federal agencies to take precautionary action, too. We know BPA exposure is linked to many harmful diseases, we know there are practical substitutes for most BPA products, and we shouldn't settle for an "acceptable" level of exposure. An infant sucking on a baby bottle should be getting nourishment that will ensure good health, not a load of hormone-disrupting chemicals. A toddler drinking from a sippy cup shouldn't be ingesting a future of diabetes or cancer along with apple juice. Our message to Congress and the FDA is: Take decisive action to get BPA out of infant and children's products to prevent a lifetime of health problems.