1st December 2009
Breast Cancer UK today launches a campaign calling on the Government to take action to end the use of controversial chemical, Bisphenol-A (commonly abbreviated to BPA), in baby bottles. This call is backed by NCT (formerly National Childbirth Trust), UNISON, The Women’s Environmental Network, the Cancer Prevention and Education Society and CHEM Trust.
Already voluntarily withdrawn from shelves in Canada and the USA, polycarbonate baby bottles made with BPA are still available in the UK, despite our view being that clear and compelling scientific evidence in lab experiments have linked even low level exposure to increased risk of breast cancer and other chronic conditions.
In the first survey of its type ever conducted, just under four out of five (79%) of the public either strongly agree (50%) or agree (29%) ‘that it is important that the UK Government acts in a precautionary way when it comes to protecting babies and very young children from BPA’. Women feel even more strongly, those agreeing or strongly agreeing rises to 82% as compared to 76% of men. While 61% of the public think that the UK Government should ‘act to end the use of BPA in baby bottles’ 61% and only 10% think the Government ‘should follow the current FSA guidelines and leave things as they are’.
“We fully support Breast Cancer UK taking action against the use of BPA in baby bottles and have been calling for these steps for over a year. With such strong public feeling against this chemical, as shown by this survey, the UK Government must follow Canada and the USA in protecting babies by legislating against its use in making baby bottles, formula tins and baby food containers.” Said Jay Francis, BPA-free Campaigner at NCT.
An influential group of scientists from the University of Stirling, Ulster University, University of London, University of Plymouth, and Reading University have also written to Andy Burnham MP, Secretary of State for Health, urging the Government ‘to adopt a standpoint consistent with the approach taken by other Governments who have ended the use of BPA in food contact products marketed at children’.
“As a medically qualified pathologist and parent to an 8 month old baby boy, I feel that it is essential for the Government to heed our call for precautionary measures to limit exposure of BPA to very young children” said Professor Vyvyan Howard, of the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute at Ulster University, and signatory to the letter to Andy Burnham MP.
He continued “Babies in their first year have not fully developed the ability to clear BPA from their bodies as quickly as adults. Their hormonal systems are also more susceptible to subtle changes that could have an impact on their long term risks of developing cancer and other chronic conditions. Ending the use of BPA in baby bottles would be a sensible and proportionate response to our current level of scientific understanding.”
The No More BPA campaign is being launched just a day after an expected announcement on BPA, due on the 30th of November 2009, from the US Food and Drug Administration, which has a regulatory authority on food contact products and public health similar to that of the UK Food Standards Agency.
The Canadian Government is expected to introduce its regulatory ban on the ‘advertising, sale and importing’ of baby bottles containing BPA by the end of the year. Baby bottle manufacturers, anticipating the Canadian ban as well as expected regulatory action in the US, have already withdrawn baby bottles made with BPA from shelves.
“There are lots of cheap alternatives to using BPA in baby bottles, and all the major manufactures are already offering non-BPA bottles. Putting a ban on BPA bottles in place is likely to increase their sales as parents throw away their polycarbonate bottles” said Clare Dimmer, Chair of Trustees at Breast Cancer UK, and a former breast cancer patient.
She continued, “Keeping BPA baby bottles on the shelves is not an option. Most parents don’t have a degree in chemistry or biology. Do we really expect them to weigh up the evidence in the latest scientific journals on the risks of exposure to a chemical that manufacturers won’t even label on their products? It should be very simple, if there is serious scientific evidence that a chemical in baby bottles could increase the risk of life-limiting illness, it shouldn’t be used. It is time Government stepped in to ban the bottle.”
Sarah Green, National Women’s Office at UNISON said:
“With one million women members, very many of whom will be mothers and grandmothers, the failure of UK manufacturers and government to take action, despite the evidence, will be of great concern. As individuals, there is a limit to what we can do to prevent potential harm, and it is therefore essential that our decision makers take action to protect us, as other governments have done.”
Jamie Page, Chief Executive of the Cancer Prevention and Education Society said:
“Most people think of plastics as inert substances. They do not realise that some of them can release endocrine disrupting chemicals such as BPA. If better materials exist then we should be using them instead, not fighting a rear-guard action to keep old ones in use especially where vulnerable populations such as infants and children are concerned.”
He continued: “Based on all I know now about low dose effects, if I had known that my children were exposed to BPA when they were small I certainly would have done everything I could to have avoided exposing them. Parents and consumers need more information about what is in the products they are buying so they can make informed decisions. The regulators should inform people that there is a huge scientific debate going on about whether BPA is safe. If in doubt most people err on the side of caution – this is only normal especially where children are involved.”
The No More BPA Report, released and authored by Breast Cancer UK, has referenced over 40 published peer reviewed studies, assessments and articles related to BPA exposure and potential increased risk of developing breast cancer, as well as other chronic health conditions including diabetes, heart conditions, and impaired brain function. An embargoed copy of the report can be downloaded from here.
The plastic recycling number 7 is sometimes imprinted on polycarbonate plastics, but as the number 7 code is used as the catchall for ‘other plastics’, even this limited labelling is very unclear.