There he goes again.
Gov. Paul LePage is still confused about bisphenol A. Only this time, his staff deliberately ignored the science. Fortunately, the independent citizen Board of Environmental Protection is free to follow the evidence, rather than the governor’s fuzzy science, when they decide whether to remove the toxic chemical BPA from baby food jars.
Presented with another opportunity to stand with Maine moms, doctors and businesses to support removing the toxic, hormone-disrupting chemical BPA from baby food, the governor once again has chosen to stand with the chemical industry.
The stakes are real. New studies show that children exposed to BPA in the womb suffer from behavioral problems. BPA harms brain development and reproductive health.
That’s why last June, more than 850 Maine moms and several public health and medical organizations petitioned the state to replace BPA in baby food jar lids with safer alternatives through a citizen-initiated rulemaking. They presented hundreds of pages of scientific evidence showing that Maine children are exposed to BPA from baby food and that safer alternatives are already widely available, effective and affordable. (Maine had previously designated BPA as the state’s first “priority chemical” targeted for immediate action to protect children and in 2011 finalized a phase-out of BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups).
In September, a public hearing and public comment process before the Maine Board of Environmental Protection added even more evidence supporting action. Nurses, moms, doctors, businesses and many others spoke out in favor of BPA-free baby food. Not one Maine business, physician or parent spoke against the proposal. The only opposition came from national industry trade groups and the Maine Chamber of Commerce.
Both criteria have been met under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act for prohibiting the sale of a product containing a priority chemical of high concern: Maine babies are exposed to BPA from baby food jar lids, and safer alternatives are available at comparable cost.
Now, in a tortured analysis that ignores the overwhelming evidence, LePage’s staff at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection recommended against removing BPA from baby food jar lids. DEP claims that there is no clear evidence that Maine babies are exposed to BPA in their food.
But the evidence in the public record clearly shows that Maine children are exposed to BPA from baby food. That conclusion is confirmed by scientific studies and by testimony from 100 Maine physicians. It’s also confirmed by the DEP’s own memo summarizing the evidence.
DEP staff misrepresented a critical study of BPA in baby food cited in their recommendation to the Board. DEP claims that the study in question concluded: “The presence of BPA could not be confirmed for 23 of the 122 products.” In fact, the study conclusions excluded those 23 results because the food itself interfered with the analysis. Of the 99 samples of baby food that could be quantified, all 99 contained BPA.
Fortunately, there is still time for the governor and his DEP to correct their mistake or for the independent Board of Environmental Protection to see through the politics at play and focus on the science. Either way, the evidence is clear: Maine babies are exposed to toxic BPA in their food, and safer alternatives are already widely available.
Maine must build on its previous, successful efforts to protect children’s health from dangerous chemicals like BPA and follow the science. Our children deserve BPA-free food.
Mike Belliveau is the executive director of Environmental Health Strategy Center and co-founder of the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine.