Safely navigating around bad plastic and bisphenol A
Ding dong, tolls the bell. Bring out your dead.
Your dead plastic water bottles, that is. And your dead plastic baby bottles. And all those plastic-lined tinned goods you were stockpiling, thinking you had a good supply of food on hand for one of the many pending doomsdays.
And as you rid yourself of all those bottles and containers made from hard, clear plastic, which often comes in deceptively gay colours, be glad, once again, that you live in Canada. We are the first country in the world to give a highly toxic rating to bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in numerous substances, including polycarbonate (or PC) plastic, epoxy resins and even dental amalgam. And we are the first country in the world to ban baby bottles made with polycarbonate plastic.
Not to say you first read about the downside of plastic water bottles and the like here, but you did read about it, in 2005 and again in 2006. Now with the federal designation made last Friday, hopefully you won’t have to read about it here again!
So what does it all mean? I asked Sean Griffin, research coordinator for Toxic Free Canada (formerly the Labour Environmental Alliance Society) and author of CancerSmart 3.0: The Consumer Guide , to help deconstruct Friday’s news.
To start, the “arcane process” of banning BPA goes like this. Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), enacted in 1999, is a provision for declaring certain substances toxic, according to the act’s criteria, due to environmental considerations, health considerations or both.
Once a substance is designated and listed as CEPA-toxic, the federal government has several options: doing nothing; setting up a risk management plan on how to use that substance; or, in rare cases, working toward eliminating it.
“For BPA, they’ve planned to list it under Schedule 1 (of CEPA), which is a very high listing for very, very toxic substances,” says Sean. What follows is a 60-day comment period.
“The historic precedent in this case is that for both environmental and health reasons, they’re also going to take the unusual step to introduce legislation to ban polycarbonate baby bottles, that is baby bottles made from plastic that potentially leaches BPA, after the 60-day period.”
The news had call-in phone lines burning up last week. Mountain Equipment Co-op started an earlier flurry when it pulled all polycarbonate water bottles off its shelves. But now babies and toddlers were on the line and anxious moms were worried, with good reason.