Minnesota Governor Vetoes Legislature’s Chemical Ban

Published August 1, 2008

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has vetoed a bill that would have banned the chemical bisphenol-A from products that come into contact with children.

Proponents of the ban claim the chemical causes reproductive harm in laboratory rats, but numerous scientific studies show no such adverse health effects if the chemical is somehow digested by humans.

Bisphenol-A Benefits

Bisphenol-A is an important component in plastic products because it provides desired texture and flexibility. It is a common component of baby bottles and other infant products, giving parents an alternative to glass items that might break and expose a child to harm from glass shards.

In addition to baby products, plastics now take the place of metals, paper, wood products, and other less safe and less durable materials for the packaging of grocery purchases and consumer goods. In the medical field, doctors and nurses no longer use glass syringes and bottles, instead using disposable plastic products that reduce infections, failures, and breakage.

No Harm to Humans

Research shows laboratory rats forced to consume extremely high amounts of bisphenol-A have developed some reproductive difficulties. On this basis, opponents of the chemical are seeking to ban it, especially in products that come into contact with children.

However, scientists note humans do not consume bisphenol-A. Moreover, even if a person does somehow digest the chemical, humans process it in a very different and more efficient manner than rats do, cleansing it from the human body within a day.

Numerous scientific studies show no significant correlations between bisphenol-A and any alleged human health problems.

The American Council on Science and Health published an extensive study of bisphenol-A in 2004, reaffirming the safety of the product. Studies by the European Union’s Food Safety Authority, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and others have similarly found no significant adverse health risks associated with bisphenol-A.

Politics Take Over

Despite these analyses, bisphenol-A opponents are not giving up their crusade to ban the product. A small group of U.S. senators is attempting to impose national restrictions on the use of the chemical. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY), John Dingell (D-MI), and Bart Stupak (D-MI) have announced plans to bring the issue to a head in the Senate, even though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other scientific bodies have extensively studied the chemical and found no significant human health risks.

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, praised Pawlenty for his May veto.

“We at the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) wish to express our admiration for your sound, science-based decision to veto the bill that would have banned certain chemicals from children’s products and consumer goods in Minnesota,” wrote Whelan in a May 15 letter to Pawlenty. “Of course, we also offer our support of your efforts to prevent this counterproductive ban, which has absolutely no basis in scientific evidence, from being passed over your veto.”

“There is no evidence at all–none–that human beings of any age or developmental stage have been harmed in any way by common exposure to [bisphenol-A],” said Dr. Gilbert Ross, medical director for ACSH. “Even workers using the chemical in manufacturing have not been shown to have suffered any harm. The fact that rodents suffer at high doses of the chemical has nothing to do with human health: The same animal tests performed on natural chemicals we eat and drink every day give the same ‘toxicity’ results.

“If we consistently banned substances based on these tests, we’d be left with nothing at all, natural or manmade,” Ross noted.

John Dale Dunn, M.D., J.D. ([email protected]) is a member of the civilian emergency medicine faculty at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood Texas, and a policy advisor for the American Council on Science and Health.