HBC will pull baby products if bisphenol A labelled 'dangerous'
Sarah Schmidt, Canwest News Service
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
One of Canada's largest retailers will pull all baby products containing bisphenol A from sale should the federal government slap the chemical with the "dangerous" label.
The Hudson's Bay Company has decided to pre-empt Health Canada with plans for an urgent national recall of plastic baby bottles, cups and toys containing the synthetic chemical compound from 280 Zellers and 94 Bay stores.
A "dangerous" designation or "toxic" label under the Canadian Environment Protection Act doesn't require Ottawa to ban or even restrict its use in consumer products, it simply kick-starts a lengthy review process that could lead to the status quo.
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Font:****Sources say Health Canada will make an announcement on the matter Thursday.
HBC has decided to act on its own in the interest of consumer safety, director of communications Hillary Marshall said Tuesday.
"We're going to take the direction that by labelling it as dangerous, and in the spirit of the new consumer product safety legislation that the government has introduced, that we will act in the interest of customer safety and remove the product."
Health Minister Tony Clement would only say Tuesday the government will "let science dictate what our determinations must be."
Marshall said the company's anticipated move is unparalleled.
HBC conducted an internal audit earlier this year to determine what baby products containing bisphenol A were on store shelves. The retailer then secured BPA-free products to replace them in the event of a voluntary national recall.
"We've taken it really seriously. Preparing in the way we have is unprecedented for us. We took the additional step because it's baby products," Marshall said.
Already, HBC has over 55,000 glass baby bottles in stores across the country in preparation for the massive recall. The company has also purchased plastic baby products free of BPA, including polypropylene bottles, liners, nipples and drinking cups.
Canadian Tire issued a statement late Tuesday stating that it would also remove plastic water bottles and food storage containers known to contain the chemical from shelves at Canadian Tire, Mark's Work Wearhouse and PartSource stores.
The corporations says is stopping the sales of those goods in order "err on the side of caution" ahead of the Health Canada assessment and will sell stainless steel drinking containers along with glass and polypropylene food storage containers as alternatives.
Recent research has shown that bisphenol A is an estrogenic hormone disrupter that causes reproductive damage and may lead to prostate and breast cancer in adulthood.
A draft brief on bisphenol A of the National Institutes of Health's National Toxicology Program, released Tuesday, bolstered these concerns.
The brief concludes "there is some concern for neural and behavioural effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures. The NTP also has some concern for bisphenol A exposure in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females."
The brief cites scientific evidence from a number of laboratory animal studies involving low-level exposure to bisphenol A during development.
The plastics industry maintains BPA in baby products is not a risk to human health. And any dangerous designation by Health Canada during the current risk assessment process doesn't mean plastic bottles will be banned in the future, said Steven Hentges, executive director of Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group at the American Chemistry Council.
"It does not draw that conclusion at all. Many substances are labelled as dangerous, but that doesn't mean they're removed from market. It's not inconsistent with safe use of the material."
He added, "We are confident there will be the continued safe use of bisphenol A."
The council has recently hired Kim Doran, former deputy national director of the Liberal Party, to lobby MPs and senators, to push for BPA to stay on the market in Canada.
Meanwhile, consumer demand for baby products with BPA is drying up, say retailers.
"We haven't been told to pull them or not, but the sales are dead," said Debbie Ranger, owner of Macklem's baby store in Toronto. Unlike HBC, she said she's going to wait for direction from Health Canada.