Mothers are diverse. There are all kinds of us. We’re tall, we’re short, we’re in between. We’re black, we’re white, we’re brown. We’re funny, we’re serious, we’re sometimes both. We’re rich, we’re poor, we’re in the middle. Some of us love to do the dishes, some of us hate to do the dishes. We’re diverse. And yet, I believe that we all want the same thing this Mother’s Day. Cards are wonderful, flowers are wonderful, chocolate, too, but best of all is healthy children. All women, I believe, want healthy children for Mother’s Day.
This is why, as a mother of two young children, I support LD 1181, An Act to Further Strengthen the Protection of Pregnant Women and Children from Toxic Chemicals, sponsored by Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond. The proposed bill would close a loophole that currently exempts most food packaging from Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act, so that pregnant women and toddlers can be protected from bisphenol A and other toxic chemicals in their food.
This bill is important because of something else that, sadly, we mothers all share. Every mother in Maine is unable to obtain information about which food packaging contains toxic chemicals. Every single one of us goes to the supermarket unable to determine which can of spaghetti or can of tomatoes is safe. Canned food is the No. 1 source of exposure to bisphenol A — otherwise known as BPA — for children and for adults (most disturbingly women who may be or become pregnant).
BPA is used to line the inside of metal cans, and it can contaminate the food inside when it leaches out of the epoxy resin linings. Since 1940, BPA has been used to make plastics. It is currently produced in enormous quantities throughout the world to manufacture polycarbonates for hard plastic products and to make epoxy resin linings for metal food and beverage cans. Although polycarbonates are advantageous for industrial use, researchers have long recognized the deleterious effect of BPA on humans.
While I can’t find out which canned foods contain BPA, I have found out that this is a chemical our family should be avoiding. Numerous studies show that it is a potent developmental toxicant. There are more than 125 studies funded by the National Institute of Health, documenting BPA’s wide range of harmful effects, including structural and neurochemical changes throughout the brain associated with hyperactivity, learning deficits, increased aggression, obesity and increased likelihood of drug dependency. In contrast, studies demonstrating no negative physiological effects have come from the chemical industry.
Regulatory bodies have determined safe levels of BPA, but those safety levels are currently being questioned as a result of new scientific studies. The European Union, Canada and the United States have banned BPA use in baby bottles. This is promising, but the bill, LD 1181, is about the state of Maine listening to the science and using it to proactively protect our children when other regulatory bodies have failed to do so.
I know that some U.S. chemical companies argue that there are no safer alternatives. But alternatives to BPA are often already required in Canada or Europe. BPA does not belong in our children’s food. And Mainers agree. In a recent public opinion survey, 87 percent of Mainers approve of replacing the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA with safer alternatives in packaging for infant formula, baby food and toddler food.
Now, we mothers may be a diverse group, but in my experience we like to help each other whenever we can. In fact, in my experience mothers rely on each other. So one might think that those mothers who have more time could perhaps research which canned food products contain BPA and then inform those friends and neighbor mothers who have less time, but alas this is not possible. The shocking reason for this is that manufacturers are not required to disclose what products contain BPA. So, even if you had the time to shop selectively you wouldn’t be able to.
For this Mother’s Day, I want LD 1181 to pass. I want all of us mothers to be able to provide our beautiful Maine children with safe food. I want our children to grow up into the healthy people they are meant to be. I cannot think of a better Mother’s Day gift.
Robin Barstow lives in Lamoine.