The chemical industry is at it again–defending the toxic plastics chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, to anyone who will listen. This time, was it the EPA who was listening?
Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – whose relentless 3-year investigation has uncovered mountains of dirt on BPA and the government’s failure to regulate it – recently reported that eight days after industry lobbyists met with Obama administration officials, the EPA released a list of chemicals subject to stricter labeling and reporting requirements. BPA wasn’t on it.
That was surprising, given that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had been talking tough about the need to protect the public from hazardous chemicals, including BPA, a hormone-disrupting chemical in baby bottles, sports water bottles and the lining of food cans. In September, Jackson singled out BPA as a "chemical that can affect brain development and has been linked to obesity and cancer."
According to White House notes, on Dec. 22 five lobbyists from of the American Chemistry Council, plus two representatives of BPA manufacturer SABIC, met with four officials from the Office of Management and Budget – the agency that advises the White House about the economic impact of federal policy. Kissinger reported that the lobbyists “aggressively pleaded [the industry’s] case that BPA should not be flagged for greater regulation.”
Lobbyists for the trade group presented studies – most of which the industry paid for – that downplayed the risks of the chemical. They complained that the EPA's plan to designate certain chemicals as a "chemical of concern," prompting tougher scrutiny, will hurt their profits. And they asked the government for preferential treatment – to give them notice of any action before letting the public know.
On Dec. 30, the EPA announced its list of “chemicals of concern” that will face stricter regulation, omitting BPA despite the fact that it met most of the criteria cited for the others. It’ll be two years before EPA adds more chemicals to the list.
When the Journal Sentinel asked Jackson about the chain of events, she said only that EPA is "working diligently to address chemicals that may pose a risk to the public and the environment." So when will the EPA act on BPA?