BISPHENOL A [BPA] STILL MAKING HEADLINES IN CANADA

You may recall that back in April 2008, the federal Ministers of Health and the Environment announced that Canada would become the first country in the world to ban plastic baby bottles containing BPA AND to place BPA on the list of toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act [CEPA]. Later that year, the government followed through by amending Part I of Schedule I to the Hazardous Products Act to include polycarbonate baby bottles that contain BPA, which prohibited the advertisement, sale and importation in Canada of these products, The government also confirmed its intention to declare the chemical toxic.  

Nearly two years later, in August 2010, the federal government announced it was close to making good on its promise to designate BPA as toxic (currently expected to occur around November, 2010) and placing BPA on Schedule I of CEPA, a step which will officially designate it as “CEPA toxic.” This would not ban BPA entirely but would rather enable the government to develop risk management tools (such as regulations, guidelines etc.) as appropriate.  

Bisphenol A Stats

Bisphenol A [BPA] is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic for items such as food and beverage containers, as well as the protective epoxy resin coatings of metal cans. It does not occur naturally in the environment.  

The risk with BPA is that it can leach into food and beverages, causing possible side effects on reproductive development and hormone-related problems. Reproductive toxicity — including effects on fertility and development — has been identified as a key health effect of exposure to high concentrations of BPA, a recognized endocrine disrupter.  

A recent Statistics Canada survey found that more than 90 per cent of Canadians have detectable levels of BPA. The report concludes that the data suggests continual widespread exposure in the Canadian population. “With 91 per cent of Canadians with detectable concentrations, we can certainly say that people are exposed probably on a regular basis,” said report author Tracey Bushnik of Statistics Canada's health analysis division in Ottawa

CLASS ACTION AGAINST GAIAM

The government is not the only one busy taking action against BPA. Manufacturers and retailers such as Wal-Mart, CVS and Toys R Us/Babies R Us have begun to phase out products that contain BPA. Similarly, consumers have begun to take action…class action! In both Canada and the United States, consumers have launched class action suits against GAIAM, Inc. [Gaiam] on behalf of consumers who purchased a Gaiam reusable aluminum water bottle. The allegation: that Gaiam engaged in false and misleading advertising by claiming that its water bottles were “BPA-free.”

Gaiam is an American company that markets and sells “ecofriendly, organic products and healthy living solutions to help you live your best life.” (www.gaiam.com).

According to the motion filed in Quebec by the petitioner, Jeffrey Rosen, Gaiam “sought to capitalize on the concerns that consumers have with respect to BPA and its effects on human health and the environment by aggressively marketing and selling its reusable aluminum water bottles as being ‘BPAFree’.”  

The motion alleges that, in fact, the liner in Gaiam’s water bottles contained BPA. Furthermore, the motion claims that even though Gaiam eventually “quietly” removed representations that its water bottles were BPA-Free, Gaiam failed to inform consumers that the water bottles did indeed contain the harmful substance. The motion further notes that at some point between September and October 2009, Gaiam began including information on its website that “independent lab tests revealed BPA leaching at 23.8 parts per billion in its reusable aluminum water bottles.”

The petitioner is seeking the following damages: purchase price of the water bottles; loss of use and enjoyment of the water bottles; trouble and inconvenience; and punitive and/or exemplary damages. Similar class action law suits have been instituted in the United States, also based on allegations of false and misleading advertising in connection with these water bottles.