A walk through the baby aisle of any pharmacy will reveal a sea of products shouting "BPA-free" on their packaging.
Bisphenol-A – better known as BPA – is an industrial chemical that's used in many household plastics and food packages. It's capable of interfering with the body's hormones, particularly estrogen, and scientists have linked BPA exposure to diseases, such as cancer and diabetes.
With these hazards, the logical solution seemingly would be to shop BPA-free. Unfortunately, it's not really a solution.
What's wrong with BPA-free?
- BPA is in more products than you think.
BPA is so pervasive it's practically unavoidable. In 2012, the FDA banned it from baby bottles and sippy cups – but it's still used in many other items, such as canned food, water bottles and receipt paper.
- When BPA is removed, it's often replaced with a similarly dangerous chemical.
This practice is known as "regrettable substitution." There's no one charged with ensuring replacement chemicals are any safer.
- Many other unregulated and untested chemicals are in everyday products.
So even if we could limit our exposure to BPA, we still encounter thousands of other chemicals – many linked to human health risks – in products we use every day.
What can you do?
Because this problem is so pervasive, we can't solve it just by how we shop (though EPA's Safer Choice label is a welcome start).
For decades, federal law regulating everyday chemicals was weak and outdated. The Toxic Substances Control Act, the main law meant to protect us, allowed companies to sell and use chemicals without showing they're safe. In June 2016, President Obama signed the Lautenberg Act, finally reforming the 40-year-old law.
Unfortunately, after getting off to a strong start, new leadership at EPA is mounting sustained efforts to weaken implementation of the new law. EDF is taking the administration to court to hold EPA accountable to the requirements of the reformed law.
We're also working with allies in Congress to stave off further rollbacks. But we need your help to fight back.
Consumers like you, advocates like us and companies that make and sell products all have a significant role to play. We must keep demanding safer products, get stronger rules in place and strive to go beyond simple compliance with the law.
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