BIll to Ban Bisphenol A in Baby Products Passes the Assembly
On the first day of the new fiscal year, the state Assembly spent 45 minutes debating a bill that would ban the use of bisphenol A in sippy cups, baby bottles, and formula containers used by infants up to the age of three.
More than 15 lawmakers spoke on both sides of the bill, SB 797, which was defeated last September by the lower house.
Backers say bisphenol A, a compound used in resin coatings and plastic, is harmful and should be banned in products exposing youngsters to it. In commercial use since the 1950s, bisphenol A can also be found in compact discs and some medical devices.
Opponents of the ban, mostly Republicans but a few Democrats, contend the bill by Sen. Fran Pavley, an Agoura Hills Democrat, would ban the compound’s use in too many products and that her measure singling out bisphenol A or BPA violates a 2008 compromise in which the state would assess the harmfulness of chemicals would as a group rather than in isolation.
Regulations creating what’s called the Green Chemistry Initiative are to be adopted by January 1, 2011 and guide the Department of Toxic Substances Control in identifying potentially harmful chemicals, prioritizing them and evaluating alternatives. The BPA bill would be repealed if the department restricts exposure to the chemical.
Backers of the BPA bill say that’s too long to wait.
“The evidence is in, the debate should be over,” said Assemblyman Steven Bradford, an Inglewood Democrat shepherding Pavley’s measure through the lower house. “How long must we wait. Same approach as desegregation? Deliberate speed?”
Last March, the six largest makers of baby bottles in the United States announced they would stop using bisphenol A. Among the brands they make: Evenflow, First Essentials, Gerber, Munchkin and Playtex.
The Assembly analysis of Pavley’s measure says a 2008 study by The National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction is the “most thorough scientific literature review completed by a government agency to date.”
In assessing effects of BPA exposure, the National Toxicology Program uses a scale of five levels of concern, “serious” being the worst. In descending order, the remainder are “concern,” “some concern,” “minimal” and “negligible.”
The study has “some concern” about the effects of current human exposure on the brains, behavior, and prostate glands of fetuses, infants and children.
For fetuses, infants and children there is “minimal concern” expressed about the effects on mammary glands or a lower age of puberty in girls.
There’s “negligible concern” that exposing pregnant women to BPA will result in fetal or neonatal mortality, birth defects or reduced birth weight and growth.
And “negligible concern” exposure will cause reproductive effects in adults exposed to it outside the workplace and “minimal concern” for workers exposed to higher levels.
The Food and Drug Administration agrees with the National Toxicology Program that “recent studies provide reason for some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.”
But, the FDA says there are “substantial uncertainties with respect to the overall interpretation of these studies” and is continuing to evaluate the issue.
Several GOP lawmakers said they would support a narrower version of Pavley’s bill.
Assemblyman Mike Villines, a Fresno Republican, said he would support a bill that banned BPA in “sippy cups, spoons, plastic materials” used by infants but that Pavley’s measure was too broad.
A recurring theme during the debate sounded by supporters was that even if the effects of exposure aren’t certain, better to be safe than sorry.
“BPA is a toxin. If you don’t believe in the science, I believe we err on the side of caution with our children,” said Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, a Santa Monica Democrat.
Assemblyman Chris Norby, a Brea Republican, countered that “caution itself has a price,” noting that “the only difference between a toxin and a medicine is how much you take.”
Several states ban bisphenol A in baby products. Connecticut passed a ban in June 2009 on BPA’s use in baby food cans and jars as well as reusable food and beverage containers. The ban doesn’t take effect until October 2011.
Minnesota was the first state to approve a ban in May 2009. It affects baby bottles and sippy cups.
The French government voted in late June in favor of such a ban. In 2008, Canada announced it was banning use in infant products.
It appeared Pavey’s bill would be defeated a second time, initially mustering only 32 “aye” votes. But eventually the 41 votes needed for passage in the 80-member house were reached.
Pavely’s bill returns to the Senate for a final vote. The Senate approved her bill last year.
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