Massachusetts Enacts, California Rejects, BPA Ban

Published January 3, 2011

The Massachusetts Public Health Council has approved a ban of bisphenol-A, a chemical that gives strength and flexibility to plastic products, from being used in baby bottles and sipping cups.

Massachusetts is the eighth state to impose restrictions on bisphenol-A (BPA) even though comprehensive studies performed by university researchers, the U.S. federal government, and the European Union have found BPA poses no documented risk to public health.

As a result of the Public Health Council’s December 15 vote, retailers in Massachusetts will have until July 1 to remove from their shelves all baby bottles and sipping cups containing BPA.

Maine Considers Similar Ban
In Maine, the Board of Environmental Protection voted on December 16 to approve a similar ban on BPA from baby bottles and sipping cups. The ban will not take effect, however, unless approved by the legislature.

California, U.S. Senate Reject
While state agencies in Maine and Massachusetts moved to restrict BPA, federal and state elected representatives rejected such bans. The California Senate ended its 2010 session with a 19-18 vote against a ban on BPA in children’s products.

Similarly, the U.S. Senate twice defeated attempts by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to impose a federal ban on BPA in children’s products. Feinstein attempted to attach the BPA ban to legislation during the Senate’s autumn session and then during the lame duck session following the November elections. Her efforts were voted down each time.

Safety Thoroughly Tested
Elizabeth Whelan, president and founder of American Council on Science and Health, says BPA has been used in plastics for over 60 years and studies show it does not endanger the health of children or adults.

“The Senate should not be involved with BPA at all. There are plenty of public health problems to address, but BPA is not one of them,” said Whelan.

“Volumes of research have been conducted on this chemical, and overwhelming, compelling evidence is that we’re not finding any problems,” agreed Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Scientific studies show BPA exposure is too low to have any impact on humans, and that humans metabolize BPA and pass it through their systems before it can have any kind of negative impact.”

Comparing Apples and Oranges
Referring to studies showing rodents develop health problems when subjected to massive doses of BPA, Logomasini said rodents do not metabolize BPA as quickly as humans and chemicals are often harmful to one species without being harmful to another.

“Just like a dog can’t eat chocolate, but humans can,” she says, “biological differences have been demonstrated” between rats and humans regarding BPA.

Logomasini said environmental activist groups frequently cite rodent studies or poorly conducted human studies to cast doubt on the comprehensive scientific studies conducted by EPA, the European Union, and university researchers showing no human health risks from BPA.

“That’s why we’re having a big political battle,” she said. “Getting rid of BPA based on questionable—and really unfounded—science is a terrible precedent that promotes dangerous policy.”
“Where does it end?” asked Logomasini. “When you start removing products for no good scientific justification in the marketplace you’re in a dangerous position, because it’s not just that one product. The question becomes, what will be banned next?”

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.