Senate Ban on BPA Isn’t Enough, Advocates Say

They believe the legislature needs to overhaul the state’s entire chemical policy


April 12, 2011 -- Environmental health advocates are thrilled that the Senate voted 20 to 9 last Thursday to ban Bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, from baby bottles, children’s sippy cups and reusable water bottles.
But they say there’s far more the legislature can do to protect the public from hazardous plastics and pesticides.
“We should overhaul our entire chemical policy so that every chemical is safe before we use it,” said Lisa Arkin, the executive director of the Oregon Toxics Alliance.
Arkin wants stronger regulation of chemicals and pesticides used in consumer products, especially those “that have never been tested for safety and for human health impacts.”
She specifically mentioned Atrazine, a pesticide that can cause cancer, birth defects and affect the female productive system when it gets into drinking water.
Susan Katz, a board member of Physicians for Social Responsibility’s Oregon chapter, believes that any chemical enhancing a plastic’s fragrance and color should be questioned.
Arkin is disappointed that House Bill 2188, which would reduce the number of pesticides used in state-owned lands never received a public hearing. She believes lawmakers on both sides of the aisle blocked the bill’s progress because they want to protect certain business sectors such as the fishing and canning industries.
“For chemical lobbyists to block that very simple kind of precautionary type of legislation is outrageous,” Arkin said.
Sen. Larry George (R-Sherwood) voted against the BPA bill, and criticized the legislature for picking and choosing to ban certain chemicals, while acknowledging there are other dangerous chemicals. “We know that a number of chemicals we put into our system are carcinogenic,” he said.
But Katz and Arkin still consider the Senate’s vote to ban BPA from children’s products a victory. “I’m thrilled,” Katz said.
“I'm glad BPA passed through the Senate because other worthy bills can't get through,” Arkin said. “Our elected leaders are recognizing…that there are some chemicals in consumer products that are harmful to future generations.”
The bill now moves to the House, which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Rep. Ben Cannon (D-Portland), who co-chairs the House Energy, Environment and Water Committee where the bill will likely receive a hearing, thinks the Senate’s bipartisan support will affect the House’s consideration. “That bodes well for its future in the House,” Cannon said.
Governor John Kitzhaber supports the ban, so if the House passes the bill, Oregon will become the 10th state to ban BPA.
BPA is an organic chemical widely used in plastic materials because it hardens and strengthens plastic. “It’s in a lot of plastic things,” Katz said.
BPA leaches out of plastic when it comes into contact with fluids and high temperatures. People digest BPA along with the fluid, and it’s particularly harmful to children because their kidneys cannot get rid of the chemical as quickly as adults.
Tests on animals have shown that BPA can cause cardiovascular disease, cancer, infertility and other illnesses.
“There’s no doubt in the medical field that the risk to infants and young children is real,” according to Sen. Alan Bates (D-Ashland), who spoke on the Senate floor. “It is high, and it’s significant.”
The BPA ban is only limited to children’s products because a wider ban did not have political support, Katz acknowledged.


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