BPA Ban Under Consideration in California

The Associated Press is reporting that in response to consumer concerns, California may be the first to implement statewide restrictions on <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">Bisphenol A—BPA—an estrogen mimicking chemical that has been hotly debated in recent months over its presence in plastic baby bottles and infant formula cans.  At least 11 other states, including New York, have considered bills to restrict BPA.

Although BPA is found in a wide variety of consumer products, the proposed bill only discusses its impact on children three years of age and younger and would require all products or food containers designed for such children to contain trace amounts of BPA.

BPA is a ubiquitous chemical compound that mimics estrogen and is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resin.  Studies confirm BPA is chemically similar to diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic estrogen linked to the development of vaginal cancer in the daughters of women who took the drug in the 1950s-1960s to prevent miscarriage.  BPA has been in commercial use since the 1950s and is found in a wide variety of everyday items including water bottles, food and drink packaging, food can linings, dental sealants, CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses, and automobiles.  And while most experts agree that BPA is disruptive to the body’s hormonal system, scientists disagree over what dosage in food and beverage containers can be harmful.

The National Toxicology Program (NTP), an arm of the National Institutes of Health and a partnership of federal health agencies, published a draft brief that said there is “some concern” with BPA over “neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures” and also had “some concern” for exposure in these populations “based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females.”

The FDA has long maintained—even in the face of tremendous opposition—BPA’s, safety, but is now claiming it has been reviewing emerging literature on BPA on a continuous basis for years and its Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition initiated a formal reexamination of the safety of BPA in early 2007.  The FDA recently agreed with the chemical industry in defending BPA’s safety, announcing it saw no reason to advise consumers to stop using products made with the controversial chemical.  In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, Norris Alderson, the FDA’s associate commissioner for science, defended the FDA’s reliance on two industry-funded studies in making this determination.  Critics have accused the FDA of failing to act on BPA concerns and have accused them of acquiescing to industry.

The California bill’s author, Democratic state Senator Carole Migden from San Francisco, said California was following the example of a number of retailers that are voluntarily pulling BPA-laced products from their shelves.  “I think manufacturers who make money should do all they can to make their products safe,” said Migden. “This is just one step.  It ought to be banned for everything,” she added.  In April, Health Canada issued a draft risk assessment indicating it planned to add BPA to the country’s list of toxic substances.  Most recently, Senate Democrats introduced a bill to ban BPA in plastics from all products made for infants and young.  The bill would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study BPA risks.

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