State Senate approves BPA ban for sports bottles

The Washington State Senate this morning approved an amended bill banning bisphenol-A (BPA) from “sports bottles” as well as from baby bottles and sippy cups used by children. See Senate Bill 6248.

Manufacturers of various kinds of containers were ready to accept a ban on baby bottles. In fact, major producers — including Gerber and Playtex — are no longer using BPA in infant products sold in the United States.

But the amendment (added by the House and approved today by the Senate) shows that industry representatives were unsuccessful at drawing a line for BPA in adult products. The argument is that young children are more vulnerable to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, because their immune and reproductive systems are still forming.

Jan Teague, president of the Washington Retail Association, was quoted in the Puget Sound Business Journal as saying manufacturers are “ready” for the state to ban BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and other containers used by children, but adult products are another thing.

“The bill is about children’s safety—not adult sports bottles,” Teague told reporter Kaitlin Strohschein. “I think we’re going to be fine on the baby bottles and stuff but not on the sports bottles.”

It is not hard to find sport bottles that are without BPA, if you can believe the labels. Go into any store where the bottles are sold and you’ll see “BPA free” as a key selling point.

Industry officials still seem worried about any further bans, saying so far there are no good alternatives for five-gallon water bottles, given their strength and light weight. They also remain opposed to banning the use of BPA as a liner for steel cans, given that the plastic can greatly extend the life of food products.

In a story in the Washington Post, reporter Lyndsey Layton recently described how manufacturers are spending millions of dollars to find alternatives to BPA, but none has been successful so far.

I began my first tentative reporting on this issue in Water Ways in April 2008 and have followed developments ever since. In January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration did an about-face on the issue and voiced “some concern” about its effects on infants and young children. Advocacy groups had been arguing that the FDA’s position against a ban was based on poorly designed studies conducted by industry sponsors.

If our governor signs the bill as expected, Washington will be the second state — behind Connecticut — to ban BPA in sports bottles. Others have approved or are proposing bans on baby bottles and sippy cups. Last week, reporter Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has signed a bill into law dealing with baby bottles, while Maryland lawmakers have approved a similar bill. Legislation is pending in Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

In February, a similar measure fell one vote short of approval in the Oregon Senate, as described by Rob Manning of Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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