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CA Senate Pushes Bisphenol A Ban

California's Senate passed a bill Thursday that would prevent the sale of plastic baby bottles, training cups and formula cans if they contain detectable levels of an estrogen-like chemical suspected of disrupting normal human growth.

If the measure becomes law, California would be the first state in the nation to ban the plastics ingredient bisphenol A in any consumer product.

The chemical is used in manufacturing polycarbonate plastic - the hard, clear, durable material once common in Nalgene bottles - as well as in toughening casings of cell phones, laptops and automotive parts. It's also used as lining on the insides of canned goods and sealing children's teeth against cavities.

SB1713, introduced by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, passed the Senate on a 22-15 vote and now goes to the Assembly, where it is expected to have a tough fight.

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors passed a law in 2006 banning bisphenol A and a family of chemicals, known as phthalates, that are plastic softeners. The board amended the law to apply only to phthalates, hoping that the state would ban bisphenol A.

Researchers have conducted hundreds of animal studies on bisphenol A that have shown evidence that even at low levels it can damage developing neurological and reproductive systems. Last month, the National Institutes of Health's National Toxicology Program issued a report noting "some concern" that bisphenol A could affect puberty in females, mammary and prostate glands and neurological-behavioral systems.

Health Canada, the equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is considering a ban on polycarbonate baby bottles as a precautionary measure.

Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group, which represents five chemical companies, including Dow Chemical Co. and Bayer MaterialScience, has lobbied against bans in San Francisco, Sacramento and Washington, D.C. Steven Hentges, executive director of the group, said Thursday that bisphenol A hasn't caused health problems.

"The safety of bisphenol A at the very low levels that would be available in baby bottles has been evaluated by many scientific and governmental bodies worldwide," he said. "Those reviews all support the conclusions that those low levels are not a health concern."

But consumers, particularly parents of young children, have demanded products that don't contain the chemical. Companies are responding by offering glass bottles or green alternatives.

Last month, Nalgene, a prime maker of water bottles, announced it was getting rid of its polycarbonate line. Baby bottle manufacturers Gerber, Phillips Avent and Playtex, among others, have begun phasing out polycarbonate or offering products free of bisphenol A, also known as BPA.

Gerber is offering two alternatives to polycarbonate, and in the coming weeks will slap "BPA-free" stickers on the products nationwide, said spokesman David Mortazavi. The company will eliminate polycarbonate plastic by the end of the year, he said.

Playtex announced last month that it will stop using bisphenol A in its products by the end of the year, and presently offers alternatives. Read more

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E-mail Jane Kay at