Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning with plastics #7, #3 and #6


I woke up this Christmas morning thinking about all the children excitedly opening their Santa gifts and remembering the joy I felt as a young mother when my son and daughter were gleaming from ear to ear upon finding the toys they wanted under the tree. It truly is a magical time.

It dawned on me this morning that as a busy mother I wouldn't have had time to think about toxic toys, let alone read, research, advocate, and investigate the toys and products that I hurriedly fill my shopping cart with! I barely had time to sleep! So here I have started this blog at the beginning of December asking mothers to stand up and take notice and to ban together to protect the lives and health of their children, and if there is a single population who doesn't have time for this it surely must be young MOTHERS!

I have been resting uneasy since my Preschool Head Teacher Amber brought in an email response she received from GERBER yesterday. Amber happens to be one of these to-busy-to-breath new mothers, taking tender loving care of her beautiful infant son Logan. Several things stand out in their email...
"We can assure you that all Gerber products are safe and meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirements for safety. FDA has established regulations that define the limits for potential interaction between food and plastics." This sounds like a reasonable response, and so I went searching for the FDA guidelines and have yet to find them (I'll continue the search).

My investigation took me an interesting blurb from another concerned mother who says,

"I used to be totally psyched that I could get Gerber Tender Harvest organic baby food in my regular grocery store and I’ve been faithful to them for six years. Until now. Until some asshat decided that putting organic baby food in plastic containers, as well as killing off half of our favorite flavors in one fell swoop, would be a great idea. Hello? Plastics leach dangerous chemicals such as phthalates & Bisphenol A into food, particularly when heated. And guess what I found out when I called Gerber to complain? Their baby food is poured into these plastic containers while it’s still boiling hot. But they insist it’s safe. You know…like the Ford Pinto or lead paint. These containers are polycarbonate, as noted by the #7 on the bottom. Nice, eh? If you’d like to thank Gerber for this disappointing decision, call them at 1-800-4-GERBER. So now my choices are to continue buying it and pretend that I don’t know any of this, go somewhere out of my way to buy organic baby food in glass jars OR buy the non-organic stuff and contend with pesticides and fertilizer chemicals instead of pthalates and Bisphenol A. Mmmmm. Yummy." (Izzy)

For a few minutes yesterday I doubted myself, especially when reading Gerber's further response to the question of Bisphenol A, which states, "other leading scientific and regulatory authorities in Europe have concluded that the use of food contact polycarbonate plastics is safe" and "it sees no reason to ban or otherwise restrict currently authorized food contact applications." That sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Gerber is only following the established regulations and FDA's strict guidelines, right? So why is it that every single Environmental and Health group is warning parents to stay away from Bisphenol A and polycarbonate plastics (soft plastics and vinyl) #7, #3 and #6? Are they all just reactionaries who have something against the plastics industry? Do they simply have nothing better to do then to scare the public about things they know nothing about? Is GreenPeace, National Geographic (Green Guide), Children's Health Environmental Coalition, HealthyToys.org, The Ecology Center, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Environment Working Group (EWG), Consumers Union, World Health Organization, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency just trying to stir us up??

Some might think so. My gut instinct as a mother tells me otherwise. It tells me that the plastics industry, worth billions of dollars annually, (11.5 billion in NY State alone in 2005), accounting for 341 billion dollars in annual shipments and direct employment of 1.1 million people in 2005. The industries Free Trade Agreement with China and Central America means yet another 16 billion in the purchase of U.S. manufactured plastics, while in 2003 China became the third the third largest export market for U.S. plastics industry goods, with exports valued at 1.32 billion.

California, Maryland and Minnesota proposed to ban children's products that contained any level of bisphenol A (2006) Each bill would have prohibited the manufacture, sale or distribution in commerce of a wide range of toys or childcare articles intended for use by a child under three years of age.
Each bill has effectively died. The FDA conclusion stated that, "based on all the evidence available to us at this time, FDA sees no reason to change its long-held position that current uses with food are safe"and "considering all the evidence…FDA sees no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict the uses now in practice." Eliminating Bisphenol A (California Bill AB 319) would have essentially meant banning life-saving medical devices (e.g., incubators, kidney dialyzers, blood oxygenators, and drug infusion units), sports safety equipment (e.g., bicycle helmets, visors), healthcare products (e.g., eyeglass lenses, dental sealants), shatter-resistant baby bottles, and canned foods and beverages.

Several European Countries have also tried to ban Bisphenol A, but without success as yet. National Geographic's Green Guide website has quoted [Science News, 10/18/97], "A U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) study has shown that bisphenol A (BPA), a component of polycarbonate plastic that mimics the effects of natural estrogen, can migrate into liquids. FDA researchers found that polycarbonate baby bottles, juice cups and other food wares contain unbound BPA, which is released into fatty foods and baby formula at room temperature and when heated." Is this guy totally off the mark? Simply another reactionary?

The Labour Environmental Alliance Society in Canada makes a strong point, "The problem with that assurance is that the FDA and the American Plastic Council have also assured consumers that there is no cause for concern in using the soft plastic teething rings and soothers made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Meanwhile, the European Union moved this year to ban plastic toys "intended to be chewed or sucked by children under three" them because of concern over the phthalates used in the plastic to make it soft and pliable. Apparently, Europe is more concerned about the health of its citizens than U.S. regulators."

No state has effectively banned or limited the use of Bisphenol-A or Phthalates from baby products, however the European Union did move to eliminate Phthalates by unanimously approving a permanent ban on 6 types of Phthalates in September 2004. Other countries that have banned some, or all, use of Phthalates include: Austria, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and Japan. Canada has issued a national health advisory on Phthalates. SO WHAT'S WRONG WITH AMERICA? In the absence of both state and federal government action and adequate information about the presence of toxic chemicals in consumer products, the Environment California Research and Policy Center recommends that parents and others caring for children do the following:

• Avoid allowing children to put polyvinylchloride (PVC) plastic toys in their mouths;
• Use glass containers for food and drink storage when possible;
• In washing plastic products, avoid harsh dishwashing soap and hot water, both of which speed up the leaching process

There are so many alternatives to making plastics without these potentially harmful chemicals. If Gerber is really interested in "helping parents raise happy, healthy babies" why doesn't the company simply act on the side of caution until further evidence does come forth? In their letter they also state, "Gerber chose the multi-layer #7 plastic package so it ensures the quality of the product by helping ensure freshness of food." PLENTY OF ENSURANCES!

I have a little stack of Gerber's baby foods in #7 plastic containers that I removed from our Infant room immediately after reading that #7 plastics contained polycarbonate. We effectively ended our plastic baby food purchases and we have made a simple switch to glass containers, with little effort whatsoever! At this point is seems Gerber has no intention of taking the lead by stepping up to ensure that safety truly is their "top priority"!!

So here is what I propose we mothers do.

, because I do understand that you are all rightfully busy tending to your precious babies and you shouldn't have to be preoccupied with worries concerning the optimal health of your children. Let's not even bother to second guess the plastics industry. What IF all these health organizations and environmental activist groups ARE right? Do we really have time to kick ourselves several years down the road when the FDA calls a ban on all leaching plastics?

1. When you go to the grocery store just don't buy any baby food in plastic containers! Go back to glass containers, which are still available on most grocery shelves.
2. Share what you know and what you are doing (skipping the #7 plastic baby food containers) with every mother you know.

If every mother stops buying Gerber's *new* plastic baby foods and reaches for glass containers then your local store will begin to get the picture. If EVERY store manager has to throw out expired plastic containers they will have no choice but to stock what mothers are buying! Seems like a small and easy step towards forcing necessary change, doesn't it? Gerber and all the other "safety first" big-money corporations are NOT going to switch to alternative plastics unless it impacts them financially!

If YOU can take just one precautionary measure to ensure your child's safety do it TODAY.
Every mother doing one thing, picking away at eliminating plastics #3-PVC, #6-PS, #7-Polycarbonate, will certainly add up to:
A lot of mothers in a lot of communities making a lot of difference to a lot of children!!

These are my thoughts on this perfectly peaceful Christmas morning. Good will to all....

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