Posted by: Chloe Schwabe | February 25, 2011

Women with little beards, huh?!!

I have been following the science on BPA for the last few years, and this week Maine Governor Paul LePage told me something I had not yet heard. According to the Bangor Daily News, Governor LePage said, “if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen.” Ok, so that is roughly the case. BPA leaches from the bottle into the liquid.

He continued, “So the worst case is some women may have little beards.” Huh?!

Not only is this last comment incorrect and baseless, it is just plain ignorant to the hundreds of studies that have found strong evidence that this chemical is linked to real harm.  Not to mention Governor LePage’s comment was an insensitive affront to women and women’s health. The reality is that plastics, receipt paper, and food cans are all leaching small amounts of BPA, which does act like estrogen. But women will not be growing “little beards.” Rather, studies have linked BPA exposure to prostate and breast cancers, early puberty in girls, more aggression in girls and passivity in boys, obesity, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. For some related studies, click here.

BPA is found in the bloodstreams of more than 92 percent of the U.S. population, according to the CDC (2009). A 2010 study by the University of California San Francisco just published last month in Environmental Health Perspectives, tested the blood of 268 women, chosen by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found that 96 percent of them had BPA in their blood. A 2009 umbilical cord blood study by the Environmental Working Group also found BPA present in nine out of ten samples. Scientists are increasingly able to document and understand the damage BPA can start in the womb.

The Food and Drug Administration has expressed some concern about BPA and Canada already moved to classify it as a toxic chemical. Most recently, the European Union is banning the manufacture of BPA in all baby bottles starting on March 1st and replacing them with safer alternatives by June 2011.

As more states, governments, and industries are taking action to remove BPA from baby bottles and other products that represent a significant source of exposure, Maine’s governor is threatening to roll back a protective bill that was passed almost unanimously by the state house in 2008. Maine nearly unanimously passed the Kid Safe Products Act (KSPA) because legislators recognized the current federal policy is failing to adequately protect children’s health.

One result of this legislation was that in December, Maine’s Board of Environmental Protection voted unanimously to classify BPA as a priority chemical and to remove it from baby bottles by 2012, pending legislative approval. Not only does the governor want to roll back the KSPA, but he also wants to put the kibosh on the BPA ruling.

As people of faith, we are called to protect children’s health and to honor the covenant that God made with Noah to protect Creation for future generations. Failure to protect children from chemicals like BPA and the tens of thousands of other chemicals in commerce not only does a disservice to the future generations that will inherit the Earth, but it also fails to meet our mandate and values as people of faith. The Maine governor should honor his Catholic faith tradition and ensure that all God’s children and Creation are protected from chemicals under his watch.

PS: Environmental Health, while certainly it is an issue that affects everyone, is also a women’s issue. The 2011 Ecumenical Advocacy Days is on “Development Security and Economic Justice: What’s Gender Got to do with It?” Come join the eco-justice track at Ecumenical Advocacy Days to learn more about the issue and how you can change chemical policy to protect women and children.



  1. Good info. We DO need to be vigilant about the toxins in the environment. There is a reason cancer incidence – asthma – even autism has increased. And it is not because we are living longer (cancer). Howver, I do wish that our motivation for supporting and issuing legislation that protects our health and the environment would come from the integrity of our humanity and not the legalities of our faith traditions. People of humanity want ecological sustainability…people of faith need to quit using their religious piety to leverage integrity, it only perpetuates the idea that “we” of faith are better the “you” who do not profess anything more than your (sacred) humanity. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for this insightful post, complete with scientific studies to back it all up! Please keep it coming- this is helpful to so many of us!

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