Friday, March 18, 2011

Children's health advocates urge government crackdown on toxic baby bottles

Two major citizens’ coalitions have combined forces to ask the Philippines to join the ranks of countries that have taken precautionary action to protect babies from potential toxic contamination.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition, in a creative event held today outside the Department of Health (DOH) in Sta. Cruz, Manila, called on the government to order the immediate recall of baby feeding bottles containing a toxic ingredient called Bisphenol A or BPA.

To draw attention to this toxic threat against children’s health, the groups mounted a tableau showing a baby doll lying in a typical bamboo cradle being fed through an oversized mock feeding bottle marked with the words “Ban BPA” and the “skull and cross-bones” toxic warning.

The event, held in observance of the World Consumer Rights Day on March 15, sought to advance the right of young consumers, particularly infants and toddlers, to be protected against toxic chemicals such as BPA that can put children’s health at risk.

The event drew the participation of advocates for child, maternal and environmental health from Ang Nars, Arugaan, Atsitra, Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the Malayang Tinig ng mga Kababaihan sa Komunidad.

BPA, a known endocrine disruptor that can leach from polycarbonate (PC) bottles when heated, can mimic or disrupt natural hormone functions and potentially harm the development of young children.

“The government has the duty to guarantee the right to health and safety of all consumers, especially babies who totally rely on decisions made by adults such as parents and politicians. Canada and the EU have taken action against BPA, why haven’t we? We therefore urge Health Secretary Ona to take his cue from these countries and banned BPA-laced baby bottles for the wellbeing of Filipino children,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“While BPA-tainted baby bottles are removed without delay from store shelves, we similarly urge mothers to exclusively breastfeed babies for the first six months and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or more, complemented with nutritious Pinoy foods, to enhance optimum growth, development and health,” said Velvet Roxas of Save Babies Coalition.

Canada, the European Union (a powerful 27-nation bloc) and, most recently, China have taken steps to address the health risks posed by BPA in children’s products such as baby bottles.

Canada’s ban on BPA-containing baby bottles that was adopted as early as 2008 took effect in March 2010, while EU’s ban on the manufacture of such bottles became effective on March 1 this year. The sale and marketing of such bottles in EU will also be prohibited from June 1, 2011.

China’s Ministry of Health, on the other hand, is mulling a ban on BPA in baby bottles and other baby food containers,” saying that “BPA could disturb human metabolism, affect babies’ immune system and even induce cancer.”

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Save Babies Coalition have come up with seven consumer tips to prevent and reduce exposure to BPA such as:

1. Nourish your child with breastmilk, the most complete and first Zero Waste food. Go for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continue breastfeeding for two years and beyond.

2. Go for cup feeding or the giving of expressed breastmilk through cups as the situation requires (expressing is the taking of milk from the breast, without the baby suckling, by hand or with a breast pump).

3. Refrain from feeding your baby canned foods with plastic linings, which might contain BPA.

4. Avoid polycarbonate plastic containers, usually marked “PC” or the number “7”; use safer alternatives such as glass, ceramics or stainless steel.

5. Refrain from microwaving food and beverage in plastic or plastic cling wraps. If you prefer to microwave, put the food or drink on a suitable plate or cup instead.

6. Reduce consumption of canned foods as can liners may contain BPA; opt for fresh natural and indigenous food instead.

7. Check product labels and select the ones that say “BPA-Free.” Ask your retailer to offer BPA-free products


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