In December, when the Environmental Protection Agency released a new list of “chemicals of concern” that would come under increased regulatory scrutiny, we were disappointed by a conspicuous omission. Bisphenol A, the synthetic hormone EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had repeatedly singled out as an example of a chemical the agency should be more aggressive in regulating, was not on the list.
At that time, the EPA said BPA would be added to the list in two years, leaving advocates baffled in light of the flood of studies linking the compound to breast and prostate cancer, developmental disorders, heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that just before BPA was left off the list, chemical industry lobbyists met with the Obama Administration, raising suspicions that they had influenced the delay.
But now the EPA has reversed itself, announcing Monday that BPA would be designated a chemical of concern after all. The agency did not explain the unexpected turnaround, just as it hadn’t explained the earlier omission.
Whatever the reason, it’s welcome news. The Food and Drug Administration has authority over BPA in food containers, but the EPA deals with other exposures, such as factory emissions or BPA on electronic receipts. The EPA will take a closer look at BPA in drinking water, require tests by manufacturers to gauge its effects on wildlife, and continue to evaluate its disproportionate effects on children through non-food exposures. (More on EPA’s plans.)
But the news is also a little frustrating – another baby step by the federal government, leaving it to states to take more aggressive action to protect consumers. Minnesota, Connecticut and Wisconsin have enacted laws to ban or restrict some uses of BPA, and similar bills are expected to be signed soon by the governors of Washington and Maryland.
While this state action is promising, what we really need is federal action that will protect everyone in every state. That’s why it’s more urgent than ever that Congress vote on the bill before it that would ban BPA from all food and beverage containers. Ask your senators to sponsor this important bill.