Health Committee Alters BPA Ban Bill

The bill seemed simple enough — trying to keep endocrine disruptors out of babies’ mouths. But arguments get complicated in Sacramento, and yesterday the Senate Committee on Health decided that only a lighter version of that argument made sense.

On a 5-3 vote, the committee approved AB 1319 by Betsy Butler (D-Marina del Rey), but only after the author agreed to amendments that significantly altered the bill.

It now moves to the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality.

Butler’s bill targeted baby bottles, baby “sippy” cups and cans of liquid infant formula that contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical the American Medical Association this week called a known endocrine disruptor. Butler said BPA is a particular danger to infants and toddlers.

“I come before you today, asking that you take a stand to help our children,” Butler said. “The AMA is not alone in its stance against BPA. The [federal] Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency have said they’re concerned about products that contain BPA.”

The Senate committee eventually agreed to approve a near-ban (0.1 parts per billion) of BPA use in baby bottles and cups. The tricky part came when considering the use of BPA as an inner liner in cans of liquid infant formula, since food can lining represents a much more prevalent use of BPA in the United States.

“The science on low doses of BPA is overwhelming,” Michael Hansen, a scientist at Consumers Union, said. “Even government agencies have said that BPA poses a potential public health risk.”

It was the potential of risk that caught several legislators’ attention.

“You have to look at the benefit-to-risk ratio,” Senate member Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) said. “There has to be food available to people, and to me, the benefit far outweighs the risk.”

Michael Peterson, from the environmental consulting firm Gradient, represented the canning industry before the committee.

“Bisphenol-A is a chemical used to make epoxy resins,” Peterson said. “Those epoxy resins line metal cans and allow food to be decontaminated at high temperatures. In fact, these linings are instrumental in preventing illness and death,” Peterson said. “So you could say, this [limitation on BPA use] could actually lead to increased health risks.”

Rubio proposed the amendments to the bill, which now allows use of BPA in cans (including cans of infant formula), but limits its use in baby bottles and cups.

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