Author Archives: Catrina Damrell- EHSC volunteer

avatar Catrina Damrell- EHSC volunteer

Speak Out for Our Kids: Ban BPA from Can Linings!

Several years ago, we were shocked to find out that our beloved Nalgene bottles were in fact poisoning us. Today, many companies boast that their products are made without BPA. However, there still remains a major pathway by which BPA enters our bodies and more importantly, our children’s bodies: baby & toddler food containers, like cans and jars.

You may be wondering, can we really do anything to stop such a common chemical from being used in all our food packaging? Yes, we CAN (pun intended)!

Love ME Rally

Moms and kids get together for the Love ME Rally

Last Tuesday, EHSC joined the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine and Mainely Moms and Dads for a Valentines Day celebration at the State House known as the Love ME Rally. The event kicked off a new campaign to remove the toxic chemical BPA from our food supply – starting with baby and toddler food containers.

Under Maine’s Kid Safe Products Act, The Department of Environmental Protection has the authority to put forward this kind of rule for consideration. But we don’t have to wait for them. By starting a citizen’s initiated rulemaking, we can ensure a public hearing on a rule to remove BPA from baby and toddler foods – just by collecting a few hundred signatures from Maine voters.

Here’s how you can help:

1. Help us get enough signatures before the end of March. By gathering 20 from family and friends, you’ll be bringing us closer to our goal! Contact ehalasoc@preventharm.org for more information.

2. Write a letter to the editor highlighting the need for Maine’s DEP to support our efforts to pass this important rule.

Toddler foods

Our proposed rule would get BPA out of foods marketed to toddlers

Help us protect Maine families!

BPA is a known endocrine disruptor, affecting the way vital reproductive and developmental hormones are distributed in our bodies, leading to early onset of puberty, brain development and immune function (1). BPA has also been linked to increased risk of heart disease, breast and prostate cancer, metabolic disorders and diabetes, and neurological and behavioral disorders (2). This is not a chemical we want anywhere near us. Let’s ban BPA from baby and toddler food can linings!

References:

1. BPA Update: what you need to know 1/12. Greener Choices. 2012. http://www.greenerchoices.org/products.cfm?product=bpapress&pcat=food.

2. Bisphenol A (BPA). The Breast Cancer Fund. 2011. http://www.breastcancerfund.org/clear-science/chemicals-glossary/bisphenol-a.html.

avatar Catrina Damrell- EHSC volunteer

A New Years Resolution for a Bigger Change

I was talking to my friend the other day, and I confessed, as annoying as the incessant news segments are about “abiding your New Year’s Resolutions”, I really do enjoy the sense of starting fresh. Wiping off the board, with a fresh slate. New Year’s provides the perfect diving board, from which we can take our inspiration and personal motivation and soar into a new moment of our lives.

In my eyes, any New Years resolution is a great resolution, so long as it is beneficial to you, and hopefully to others. There are common ones that pop up, such as weight loss, exercise, improving financial habits, buying local, and so on. Each resolution has an effect on your personal health, both mental and physical. My personal New Years Resolutions are quite varied, from expanding on my knitting skills to starting up my own personal blog and photography website.

This year in particular, however, I have one that has a new focus to it, thanks to what I have been learning from the EHSC. I have made a resolution to limit the pollution and poison that would otherwise enter my body, unknowingly.

My inspiration for this resolution began when I read the Breast Cancer Fund’s report on BPA in can linings. I know I hold my standards for food I put on my plate, but after reading the paper, I realized that even if I was purchasing organic tomato paste, it also might be organic tomato paste laced with BPA. My resolution for canned food? Minimize my purchases whenever I can, and be creative and adventurous. Make baked beans at home – hey, if I’m living in Maine, I should make my state proud. Similarly, there are recipes for preserving and canning just about everything online, so I hope to start canning my own with the help of my mom. And when I do find myself crunched for time, which is inevitable, then I’ll try to opt for Tetra Pak products. These, as I mentioned in my post on November 21, 2011, are made with sustainable paper products and are BPA free. A win win!

toddler foods

Monitoring what I eat is an obvious step to avoiding every day poisions, but I have made resolutions pertaining to other daily interactions as well. For one, I’ve decided to purchase beauty care products that explicitly list Paraben Free on their labels. What exactly is the harm in parabens? According to the Livestrong Foundation, they may increase the risk of developing cancerous cells and traces of them have been found in tumors. Parabens are synthetic preservatives in cosmetics, extending the shelf life of the products. Over time, the chemicals can become absorbed into our blood stream, and have been known to be endocrine disruptors. Thankfully, there has been enough press about this one stream of chemicals that now producers have started marketing themselves as Paraben Free. Keep your eye out for that label next time you find yourself buying another bottle of lotion or mascara!

It’s time for a call to arms. It is a call to stand up as citizens and demand that the funding finally be put into researching what exactly is entering our bodies. There is a bill before the US Senate right now called the Safe Chemicals Act, and if passed it can be our ticket to a poison-free society.  Instead of having to worry about whether the can of tomatoes in your hand is or isn’t BPA-free, you would have the reassurance of knowing the legislation passed in favor of your family’s health. Chemicals would have to be tested for safety before they are allowed in can linings, not years after the fact.

Our Maine senators, Senator Snowe and Senator Collins, have already made strides by publicly acknowledging that our current law, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, has been failing to protect our health and safety for 35 years. We need to encourage them, however, to make their own resolution for health and wellness by co-sponsoring the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011, to help grown bi-partisan support for the bill in 2012.

Meanwhile, Environmental Health Strategy Center and advocates in Maine will spend 2012 pushing to get BPA out of canned foods sold here in Maine – making our state slogan “I lead” ring true.

I look forward to 2012 as a year of change, of hope, and of progress. I recognize the value of knowing what chemicals I expose myself to on a daily basis, and realize how that might affect my overall health and me as a future mother. However, what I have come to realize is that these chemicals will continue on unchecked unless there is a higher interference. That monitoring must come not only from our state government, but also from our federal government, whose duty is to protect its citizens.

One of my most important resolutions this year is to be an active citizen, to fight for safer laws on toxic chemicals here in Maine and the passage of the Safe Chemicals Act, and to educate my peers on how they can become the change they want to see as well. WE CAN DO IT!

avatar Catrina Damrell- EHSC volunteer

BPA-free Food for the Holidays

My girlfriends and I host a fortnightly potluck, mainly so we can use the term fortnightly, and it has become the highlight of every two weeks for me. At the most recent gathering, I decided to make a pumpkin pie from scratch (all but the pie crust, which I bought an all natural frozen pie crust). Little did I know, I was saving my friends and myself from an alarming dosage of BPA.

Last week the Breast Cancer Fund released a report focusing on the widespread reach of BPA in the linings of canned food. This comes at a time when a lot of us are reaching for the can of creamed corn or pumpkin purée, partaking in the nationwide culinary extravaganza known as Thanksgiving.

So what’s all the fuss about BPA? BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical, mimicking estrogen in our bodies. This reaction can lead to increase risk of breast and prostate cancer, infertility, early onset of puberty in females, type-2 diabetes, obesity, and ADHD.1 If this has been proven in the lab, why is BPA still used in the linings of cans? It is a component of the epoxy-resin linings of metal food cans and glass jar lids, creating a seal that prevents the food from bacterial contamination.2 Unfortunately, the use of BPA is a catch 22, preventing one food problem and creating another.

As conscious Maine consumers and family members, what sort of options remain for avoiding a chemical that seems to have infiltrated its way into nearly every food container? Despite the ongoing annual transition to the frozen tundra called the Maine Winter, the farmers markets across the state boast fresh, local, BPA-free produce. I called up Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth to ask about what produce they were bringing to the markets and the list seemed endless, from potatoes, carrots, onions, to kale, lettuce, and brussel sprouts. They informed me that they set up at Portland’s farmers market at Monument Square on Wednesdays, and also South Portland’s winter farmers market at the new city planning & development building. These days it is also possible to use your SNAP (food stamps) or WIC dollars to purchase fresh foods at farmer’s market. The Lewiston Farmer’s Market even offers a deal that doubles the value of WIC or SNAP dollars when they are used to buy local nutritional food.

If going to the farmer’s market won’t fit into your schedule (it generally doesn’t in mine), but you still would like to support local farmers and protect your family from BPA — consider joining a CSA or cooperative where food is packaged and either delivered to your house or a pick up location weekly. The Crown O’Maine Organic Cooperative is one of the largest cooperatives in Maine, sourcing farmers and people across the state. There are numerous ways to get involved in the local food scene across the state, and it’s a great way to meet more people concerned about similar issues.

I don’t mean to disregard already packaged pumpkin purées or gravy, in fact – it’s a heck of a lot easier than making it yourself. TetraPak is a company that’s renovating the packaging industry with its sustainably-sourced paper. Nearly every Thanksgiving staple can be found ready to go in TetraPak and other BPA-free containers. Here’s a great guide of products to look out for from the folks at Safer Choices.

All in all, knowledge is power and ensuring a healthy, non-toxic Thanksgiving begins with informed decisions. And while you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table, you can also discuss other ways we could get chemicals like BPA out of our food packaging — like passing laws that prevent those chemicals from being added in the first place.

Have a great holiday!

References:
1. Breast Cancer Fund (2011). BPA in Thanksgiving Canned Food.