For those of us who care about public health and chemical safety, the progress of the campaign against bisphenol A is like watching the electoral map on Election Night, waiting for another state to change color. For the chemical industry, it must feel like the story of the Dutch boy and the dike – every time they try to plug a leak, another bursts through.
The movement to ban or restrict BPA – the hormone-disrupting carcinogen found in hard plastics like baby bottles and sports water bottles, and in food can linings – is spreading from the West Coast to the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard, and across the Atlantic to Europe. Bans on BPA in baby bottles and some other children’s products are in place in Minnesota, Connecticut, Chicago and three counties in New York.
Last week, Wisconsin and Maryland took big steps toward banning BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups for children age 3 and under. Wisconsin’s bill passed the state Assembly 95-2, and having already passed the state Senate unanimously, is headed this week to the desk of Gov. Jim Doyle, who is expected to sign it. Maryland’s bill passed the House 137-0, and is headed to the Senate, where its sponsor believes it has “a good chance this year.”
"Today, we are putting the safety and well‐being of citizens before corporate proﬁts," Wisconsin State Rep. Kelda Helen Roys, the bill’s co-sponsor, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Unfortunately, the chemical industry’s $10 million lobbying campaign did succeed in getting lawmakers in both Wisconsin and Marland to weaken the bills so they do not ban or restrict BPA in the sports water bottles used by adults. That’s also the case in Washington state, where different versions of legislation banning BPA in baby bottles have passed the House and Senate, but the differences must be reconciled before the bill can be sent to Gov. Christine Gregoire.
Meanwhile, the Danish Parliament moved earlier this month to expand Denmark’s ban on BPA in baby bottles to include all food contact packaging materials for products aimed at children, including packaging used for infant formulas as well as foods and soft drinks aimed at toddlers. The Parliament also called on the Danish government to press for a European Union-wide moratorium on the use and sale of food contact materials with BPA.
So where’s the U.S. Congress in all this? Playing catch-up. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts have introduced legislation, supported by the Breast Cancer Fund, to ban BPA in all food and beverage containers, but the bills have not yet had either committee hearings or floor votes. Stay tuned.