Chemical Industry: 1 California Children: 0

September 01, 2010

Contact: Deborah Hoffman
(916) 651-4023 cell: (916) 539-8687

Senator Pavley's BPA Ban Fails Amid Heavy Chemical & Pharmaceutical Industry Lobbying

SACRAMENTO, CA - In the wake of an expensive and shamefully deceptive lobbying campaign waged by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, California Senate members voted down Senator Fran Pavley's Toxics-Free Babies and Toddlers Act (SB 797). The bill, which was defeated in the final hours of the legislative session late Tuesday night, would have worked in coordination with California's Green Chemistry Initiative to ban the use of BPA in feeding products designed for children three and under. With a final vote of 19 -18 the bill was just two votes shy of passage. Two members of the Senate who had previously voted in favor of the bill are out on medical leave.

"It's a shame that we have failed to protect our most vulnerable citizens from this toxic chemical," said Senator Pavley (D-Santa Monica). "This has been a real David vs. Goliath fight and I'm disappointed that some of my colleagues in the Senate chose to side with the powerful chemical and pharmaceutical industries and not with California children."

California was poised to join Canada, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington state and several other cities and counties in the United States that, with significant bi-partisan support, have enacted bans on BPA in baby bottles and other feeding products for children. "The science on BPA clearly shows cause for alarm," said Senator Pavley. "Every child from every community in our state deserves access to safe, affordable products. "

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an artificial hormone that is widely used in shatter-proof plastic baby bottles, sippy cups and the lining of formula cans. It leaches out of containers and into food and drink consumed by babies and young children.

More than 220 peer-reviewed studies have linked BPA to a host of health problems, including breast and prostrate cancer, infertility, obesity, and neurological and behavioral changes, including autism and hyperactivity.
Senator Pavley's SB 797 was co-authored by Senator Carol Liu, D - Pasadena, and was sponsored by Breast Cancer Fund, Environmental Working Group and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

"We are heartbroken, disappointed and perplexed," said Gretchen Salter of Breast Cancer Fund. "In the seven states that have banned BPA, both Republicans and Democrats have joined together to protect children. I hate to say it, but after an intensive and expensive lobbying campaign by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, it looks like big money has trumped the health of babies in the California legislature today."

The bill had widespread support from health care professionals, business owners and a long and diverse list of organizations including; Black Women for Wellness, Latinas for Reproductive Justice, The Help Group for Autism Spectrum Disorders, California Teachers Association, California Nurses Association, Asian Health Services, California Women Infants and Children (WIC), SEIU, California Labor Federation, and Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice to name a few. The opponents included BPA manufacturers Dow and SABIC Innovative Plastics, as well as infant formula makers Abbott, Mead Johnson, and Nestle.
SB 797 passed the Senate in June of 2009 and the Assembly in July of 2010. However, the bill failed to pass a Senate concurrence vote that would have sent the bill to the governor's desk.

Misleading Fear Tactics
Highly paid lobbyists told some lawmakers food production plants in their districts like General Mills would close even though those plants do not produce any baby food or baby products. Lobbyists for formula companies told lawmakers in both the Assembly and the Senate that alternative products aren't available and a ban on BPA would cause a formula shortage. Yet, at the same time these companies are marketing a variety of formula and food containers to parents as "BPA free." Industry lobbyists used their scare tactics on voters by sending direct mail claiming that a BPA ban would be too costly for lower-income families and deprive consumers of access to canned goods. It's not true.

Affordable alternatives for BPA are already on the market. Playtex, Evenflo, Gerber, Advent and Disney First Years have eliminated it from many of their products. Wal-Mart and Toys R Us have pulled BPA-laced products from their shelves.

"It's a shame the chemical and pharmaceutical industries stooped to such low levels to try and confuse voters and lawmakers," said Senator Pavley.

What Happens Behind Closed Doors; Industry Tactics Leaked
In May 2009, chemical and food industry lobbyists called an emergency brainstorming session to devise an attack plan to kill SB 797 and similar bills pending around the country.

Meeting behind closed doors at the exclusive Cosmos Club in Washington D.C., representatives from Coca-Cola, Alcoa, Del Monte, Crown, the American Chemistry Council, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association committed a half million dollars to an effort to "prolong the life of BPA."

A copy of the meeting minutes leaked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Washington Post, and Environmental Working Group revealed the attendees discussed employing some disturbing tactics to kill BPA legislation in California including:

-Using "fear tactics (e.g. 'Do you want to have access to baby food anymore?')"

-Focusing on "the impact of BPA bans on minorities (Hispanic and African American)
and poor," by insinuating that without BPA, food prices would rise.

-Finding a "pregnant young mother who would be willing to speak around the country
about the benefits of BPA," something which the group referred to as "the holy grail"

According to The Washington Post, the accuracy of the note was confirmed by Kathleen M. Roberts, a lobbyist for the North American Metal Packaging Alliance.
After the meeting's minutes were leaked, Coca-Cola disavowed the group's tactics, but none of the other attendees followed suit.

While the tactics backfired in states like Connecticut, they seemed to be working in California according to a recent story by California Watch/Center for Investigative Reporting.

"They stole the playbook from the tobacco industry," said Senator Pavley. "And sadly, it worked. But I will continue to fight for the health and well-being of California's children and I'm confident this toxic chemical will ultimately be banned for our children's food and drink."