In yesterday’s mail I received a flier with an attention getting headline, “Don’t let Sacramento Politicians Remove Products From Your Grocery Bag”. Inside, another headline read “Banning Materials That Keep Our Food Fresh And Safe Is A Terrible Idea”, followed by “Soon, many common everyday products could disappear from grocery store shelves all across California.” The back page had a final fear-mongering headline “Your Favorite Products May Soon Disappear”. The flier had no indication on it of who it was from, except a small box that said “Paid for by”. It urged me to call a local California State Assembly member to urge him to vote no on a specific legislative bill. The text inside had no substantive information about what was at stake, other than that a substance, BPA, has been used as a coating to line canned food and beverages, “…a material that’s been safely used for 50 years in food packaging and a wide variety of plastic products like reusable water and baby bottles.”

Something as transparent an industry hit piece as this certainly got my curiosity aroused. So, I went to and clicked on the “BPA Facts” button hiding at the bottom of the screen. This opened a document in a separate window entitled “The FACTS about Bisphenol A (BPA)”. I won’t elaborate on what was said, other than to say that many assertions were made about government investigations and studies that all concluded that BPA is safe for consumers, even fetuses and newborns. (Wow, that certainly raises a red flag, doesn’t it?) One other small thing: At the very bottom, in small print is a footer line: “A Project of the American Chemistry Council”.

OK, now we’re getting somewhere. According to Wikipedia, the American Chemistry Council is the former Chemical Manufacturers’ Association, and is

“… in charge of improving the public image of the chemical industry. The trade group represents US Chemical Companies as well as the plastics and chlorine industries, formerly known as the American Plastics Council, the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry and the Chlorine Chemisty Council.”

It doesn’t take much to speculate what is going on. Someone is concerned that BPA, manufactured by our friends in the chemical industry, may be harmful, especially to fetuses and infants. Given the way the world works, this is probably based on new studies that weren’t available in the past. Now, state legislators are proposing to restrict usage based on these new studies and the chemical industry, ever more watchful of its profits than public health, is engaging in scare tactics to protect its business. Of course, they wouldn’t be so transparent as to send out a mailer saying who they are and that their profits are at stake. So, they send out an anonymous hit piece filled with scare tactics and no real information.

This is, of course, not a new issue. For several years stories have been arising about the possible harmful effects of BPA and plasticizers used in the manufacturer of plastics. In particular, evidence is starting to appear that they damage the development of endocrine systems in young children. The surprise here is that legislators, who are usually sensitive to corporate interests, apparently are concerned enough to actually propose legislation to restrict BPA use.

For more information, go to Wikipedia’s article on Bisphenol A. There you will find a much more neutral assessment of BPA and its possible risks. As for me, I expect to be contacting the local legislator and urge him to vote yes on the bill.