It looks like the states are going to have to lead the way yet again when it comes to safeguarding the public from potentially dangerous chemicals.
Back in December, EPA Chief Lisa Jackson was talking tough when it came to toxics. “Chemical safety is an issue of utmost importance, especially for children, and this will remain a top priority for me and our agency going forward,” she stated in a release.
So how do you explain her agency’s decision to postpone for at least two years an action plan on bisphenol A—a chemical that’s particularly threatening to infants and children and linked to obesity, cancer, diabetes, and behavior problems? The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has tirelessly investigated chemical regulations, reports this week on a meeting between the chemical industry and EPA officials where industry made its case against cracking down on BPA. Shortly afterward, the EPA selected four chemicals for increased scrutiny. BPA, a synthetic estrogen used in hard plastics including bottles and can linings, didn’t make the cut. Jackson wouldn’t answer questions from the Journal Sentinel as to whether the meeting influenced the decision not to include BPA, but watchdogs are suspicious it played a role, given that the research showing that BPA is hazardous continues growing.
That leaves it to the states to get BPA out of consumer items in order to protect human health and the environment—just as they did for flame retardants a couple of years ago.
Oregon state senators could vote today on legislation to ban BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups. The bill used to include baby food containers, but that’s been dropped, rendering the bill close to meaningless given the fact that many manufacturers have voluntarily removed BPA from these items.
The Washington House and Senate each have approved BPA bans. On Wednesday, they’re holding hearings that will get them closer to reconciling the differences between their bills. The Senate approved a ban on bottles, sippy cups, and baby food containers while the House went further to include sports bottles.
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The US House and Senate slowly are taking steps as well. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has proposed a ban on BPA in food and drink containers and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is working on similar legislation. But don’t hold your breath waiting for federal action. The legislation from Feinstein—called the Ban Poisonous Additives Act of 2009—was introduced nearly a year ago and is yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing.
In the meantime, Canada already banned BPA baby bottles. In the US, Connecticut, Minnesota, Chicago, and Suffolk County, N.Y. have approved restrictions on BPA in food and drink containers for babies and toddlers. BPA bills are pending in Wisconsin, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., according to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators.
UPDATE: February 16, 2010, 4:30 p.m.
Quick additional bit of information. The California Environmental Protection Agency last week announced that it was requesting information on the health effects of BPA. The request states that:
BPA appears to meet the criteria for listing as known to the State to cause reproductive toxicity under Proposition 65, based on findings of the National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction.
The deadline to submit information is April 13, 2010.
Sippy cup photo courtesy of Flickr user Jenny Lee Silver under a Creative Commons license.