Ban Poisonous Additives Act Includes Strong Worker Focus

Leaders from the United Steelworkers (USW), United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the BlueGreen Alliance lauded the introduction of the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2014.

July 9, 2014

Labor Leaders Praise Bill Introduced Today That Would Ban Bisphenol A from Food Containers, Reduce Exposure to Chemicals for Food Processing Workers and Public

WASHINGTON, DC (July 9, 2014) – Leaders from the United Steelworkers (USW), United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the BlueGreen Alliance today lauded the introduction of the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2014 in the United States House and Senate. The bill—authored by Sen. Edward Markey (MA) and Reps. Lois Capps (CA-24) and Grace Meng (NY-6)—would ban the substance bisphenol A (BPA) from food and drink containers—where it has been widely used in plastics for decades—due to concerns about health impacts from the chemical.

“Workers and the public are unnecessarily exposed to this harmful chemical every day and should be protected,” said United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard, a BlueGreen Alliance co-chair. “This bill will help to safeguard worker health and jobs in the food container industry. Sen. Markey and Reps. Capps and Meng deserve our thanks for moving this issue forward.”

BPA is the chemical building block for polycarbonate plastic and can be found in plastic bottles and food storage containers. It is also used in epoxy resins that coat the lining of metal food and beverage cans. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 93 percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. A 2013 California study found the chemical in the umbilical cord of every one of the 85 pregnant women tested.

“Simply put, this is about protecting the health and well-being of Americans,” said Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “Workers in food processing plants are being exposed to BPA at dangerous levels, with women under 50 particularly vulnerable to developing breast cancer. This is unacceptable. The UFCW strongly supports the Ban Poisonous Additives Act which would help ensure workers can do their jobs without fear of getting sick.”

The legislation would prohibit the sale of reusable food and beverage containers (such as sports water bottles, water cooler bottles and food storage containers) that contain BPA. It would also prohibit the introduction into commerce of all other food and beverage containers that contain BPA—including food and beverage cans—and allow stronger state standards to continue. The bill does allow waivers for facilities if they can show that it isn’t feasible to replace BPA in their container or use an alternative. However, if a waiver is granted a container must be labeled indicating the presence of BPA and the manufacturer must submit a plan and timeline for removing the chemical from the containers.

A six-year study conducted by Canadian researchers Brophy and Keith, published in 2012, showed that young women working in the automotive plastics and food packing industry are five times more likely to have breast cancer than their neighbors working in other industries. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin ban BPA in food containers for young children. Connecticut and Maine’s laws also restrict BPA in all reusable food and beverage containers.

“In many of these states, and most notably in Connecticut, Delaware, Minnesota and Maryland, the bills were passed with strong bipartisan support,” said Charlotte Brody, Vice President of Health Initiatives for the BlueGreen Alliance. “Now we need the same kind of bi-partisan action in Congress to protect workers and families from BPA.”

Click here to view letters of support as well as letters from the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health; the Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health Inc.; the Massachusetts Council on Occupational Safety and Health; the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health; and Worksafe.