Tag Archives: bisphenol-A

Washington is first to tackle toxic copper in brakes

Washington state has done it again, being the first state in the country to take a legal stand against a toxic chemical.

The Legislature this week voted to phase out cooper in brake pads, provided there are reasonable alternatives and that research continues to suggest that brake pads are contributing significant amounts of toxic copper. The bill is Senate Bill 6557.

This last point about research — about the need to know more about the alternate states of copper in the environment — was raised by Silverdale resident Bob Benze. I covered his questions and success in adding an amendment to the bill in the March 1 edition of the Kitsap Sun.

Even at low levels, an ionic form of copper has been shown to affect the sense of smell in salmon, which can lead to confusion and reproductive failure. It has become a major concern, especially in urban areas. Here’s a fact sheet from the Washington Department of Ecology.

Ivy Sager-Rosenthal of the Washington Toxics Coalition supports the Puget Sound Partnership’s call for a full assessment of toxic chemicals flowing into Puget Sound and an increased focus on eliminating sources of such pollution.

Last week, Ted Sturdevant, director of Ecology, testified before Congress about actions taken by state governments, generally because the federal government has been slow to act. He and 12 other state environmental officials are calling for reform of the federal Toxic Substances Control Act.

Washington was the first state to draft a formal policy phasing out persistent bioaccumulative toxics, or PBTs. This led to state laws phasing out mercury and toxic flame retardants. The latest legislation, finalized this week, will ban bisphenol-A in baby bottles and sports bottles.

Sturdevant spelled out three guiding principles for addressing persistent toxic chemicals:
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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.”
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Sunoco and bottle makers restrict use of chemical BPA

Sunoco, a chemical and petroleum manufacturer, has become the first supplier of bisphenol-A to block sales of the chemical for use in water and food containers to be used by children under 3.

The safety of BPA continues to be debated, with the credibility of government regulators — and the method of chemical regulation itself — a major issue.

Matthew Perrone, a reporter with The Associated Press, disclosed that Sunoco had adopted the new BPA policy last November following concerns from investors. The policy became public Thursday, when a letter was sent to two investors from Thomas Golembeski, public relations director for Sunoco.

The policy requires a guarantee that the chemical will not be used in containers for children under 3. “We will no longer sell BPA to customers who cannot make this promise,” Golembeski wrote.

Meanwhile, the six largest manufacturers of baby bottles will stop selling bottles in the United States containing BPA.

Lindsey Layton, a reporter for The Washington Post, reported March 6 that the change was announced after attorneys general in Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware asked for the voluntary action.

In another development, the Washington House of Representatives has approved a bill, HB 1180, that would ban BPA in food containers used by children under 3 and in sports bottles. It also directs the Department of Ecology to assess alternatives. The bill is now in the Washington Senate.

Meanwhile similar legislation, sponsored by Sen Diane Feinstein of California, has been submitted to Congress. Among her comments of submission reported in the Congressional Record (See pages 7086 and 7087):

There is a great deal wrong with the regulatory system in this country and the way we address dangerous chemicals. Our system is essentially backwards. Chemicals are added to products before we know much about them. To be removed from the market, a chemical must be proven to be exceedingly dangerous.

That means that while we wait for evidence of harm to develop, our children are using dangerous products, and possibly eating contaminated food.

I believe it should be the reverse. We should follow the lead of the European Union, and Canada, and remove chemicals until we know them to be safe. We should not be waiting for proof of danger, which too often comes in the form of birth defects, cancer, and other irreversible health harms.

While we continue to work to change our regulatory system, the time has come to apply this precautionary principle to BPA. Without question, there is more scientific work to be done. But we must not continue to expose our citizens to these risks while we wait to confirm BPA’s dangers beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has been covering the BPA story intently, has followed these and other developments in its series “Chemical Fallout.”

Debate over the chemical BPA comes to Washington state

While experts continue to argue about the quality of research regarding bisphenol-A, some politicians in Washington state are ready to leap into action.

Bill have been submitted to both houses of the Legislature, and a hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, as reported by Phuong Le of The Associated Press.

The debate focuses on the toxicity of this chemical and whether enough of it leaches out of plastic baby bottles and other containers to be harmful. Heating, for example, is known to increase the amount that moves out of the plastic and into the liquid.

With more than 100 studies out for review, BPA was one of the most studied chemicals last year, according to “Living the Science,” which published a list. After all that, the debate is more intense than ever.

It will be interesting to see how deeply the Legislature digs into this issue, given other concerns on the agenda. At least 13 states and Congress are considering action to ban BPA for various uses, but so far nobody has done so.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has concluded that the chemical is safe, but many scientists have questioned the FDA’s conclusions.

“The issue of children’s health always takes precedent,” Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said in Le’s story. “I’m not confident with the FDA’s assessment and I always think it’s better to be safe.”

The story also included the counter-argument by Steve Hentges, executive director of the American Chemistry Council’s BPA panel: “It’s one of the best tested chemicals,” he said. “It’s been evaluated by many government agencies in the world.”

If any of you readers has delved into this issue deeply enough to offer an opinion, feel free to comment here. It seems to be a difficult case of balancing the evidence and trying to measure the risks accurately.

Here are a few entries I’ve written about the subject: Oct. 20, 2008; Aug. 29, 2008; and April 11, 2008.

Canada takes action on baby bottles; U.S. could follow

In the wake of a Canadian plan to prohibit bisphenol-A (BPA) in baby bottles, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says he will introduce a bill to ban BPA in all children’s products made or sold in the U.S, according to a story by Ian Austen in yesterday’s New York Times.

On Friday, the Canadian government announced that it will draft rules to prohibit the import, sale and advertising of baby bottles containing BPA. In a news release, Health Canada cited a government health assessment in its decision. The announcement said the general public need not be concerned, but infants may face a special risk. From the news release:

It was determined that the main sources of exposure for newborns and infants are through the use of polycarbonate baby bottles when they are exposed to high temperatures and the migration of bisphenol A from cans into infant formula.

The scientists concluded in this assessment that bisphenol A exposure to newborns and infants is below levels that cause effects; however, due to the uncertainty raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low levels of bisphenol A, the Government of Canada is taking action to enhance the protection of infants and young children.

The Edmonton Journal focused on the Canadian government’s decision to spend $1.7 million over the next three years to further investigate BPA for its effects on health.

Meanwhile, attorneys general from Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware have sent letters to 11 baby-bottle and formula manufacturers asking them to stop using BPA in their products, according to a report by writer Larry Smith of the Association Press.

Overall, researchers remain at odds over the risks of BPA, which is believed to mimic human hormones. One preliminary study released last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association linked higher exposures of BPA to heart disease and diabetes.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tentatively concluded that BPA is safe, but the agency is offering tips on how to reduce exposure. BPA is found in some, but not all, of the plastic containers identified with a catch-all number “7” in the recycling triangle. Heating or placing hot liquids into such a container tends to increase the rate of leaching into the liquid, experts say.

I honestly don’t know how concerned we should be about this. As a precaution, I have thrown away several reusable water containers that my wife and I used for hiking. They were hard plastic, colored and had a “7” on the bottom, so they probably contained BPA. For previous discussions on this topic, see Watching Our Water Ways for August 29 and April 11.

Notes on disputed chemical: The janitor did it

Some topics suitable for discussion in Watching Our Water Ways are important but a bit overwhelming. Such is the case with the debate over bisphenol-A, or BPA, a chemical used in some hard plastics.

The debate involves how much of this chemical gets into the human body from various sources and whether the levels create a health risk that warrants banning the substance.

While hard-core scientists work on the problem and debate the conflicting studies, I was alerted to a story worth reading just for the fun of it. Scientific American carried the article on BPA subtitled: “Patricia Hunt, who helped to bring the issue to light a decade ago, is still trying to sort it all out.”

It begins with this:

On the day Patricia Hunt’s career veered into an entirely different field, her graduate students at Case Western Reserve University were grumbling, itching to use some exciting new data in their own experiments, but were told to wait while Hunt (just one last time) checked on her subjects.

Hunt, a geneticist, was exploring why human reproduction is so rife with complications… All she needed was to ensure that her control population, the mice left alone in the study, was normal. Instead Hunt stumbled on a disturbing result—40 percent had egg defects.

Hunt shelved hopes of publication and scrutinized every method and piece of lab equipment used in her experiment. Four months later she finally fingered a suspect.

It was the janitor. In the laboratory. With the floor cleaner.

You’ll have to click over to Scientific American for the rest, including a photo of the “accidental toxicologist.”