From Portland Tribune:

In late-October, Multnomah County enacted Oregon’s first restrictions against products containing bisphenol A, a widely used chemical compound often called BPA. The ban on BPA-laced baby bottles, sippy cups, and reusable water bottles will have little impact on what’s sold in the county, because retailers have largely stopped selling them.

But county commissioners’ unanimous decision gives momentum to broader campaigns against BPA and other toxic chemicals in our environment, especially in the food supply.

It’s only a “baby step” in the right direction, says Maye Thompson, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility’s environmental health program director. However, she says, “I think it’s going to make people ask, ‘What’s next?’ ”

There are rumblings that other counties may follow Multnomah County’s lead and adopt local BPA bans, says Renee Hackenmiller-Paradis, Oregon Environmental Council’s environmental health program director, and a leader of the statewide anti-BPA campaign. Those could put more pressure on the Legislature to act, as businesses often dislike facing a patchwork of local regulations.

When the Legislature returns to Salem for a brief session in February, it’s unlikely that anti-BPA forces will push the same bill that passed in the Senate this year but was blocked in the House, says state Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer, D-Portland. House Republicans still have a 30-30 tie with Democrats and could, as in the 2011 session, prevent a House floor vote on the bill.

Instead, Keny-Guyer and other environmental-minded lawmakers may pursue a broader toxics bill modeled after those passed by Washington and other states.

“It’s kind of ridiculous to go through the Legislature to pick off chemical by chemical that is harmful to kids,” Keny-Guyer says.

Washington’s 2009 law requires authorities to create a laundry list of toxic chemicals that are of greatest health concern. Once the list is fashioned, the law will require manufacturers to disclose the presence of those substances in children’s products.

“I believe Oregon should be looking to pass similar policies,” says state Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, who led the campaign against BPA in the Legislature and chairs the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Other products targeted

The anti-BPA campaign is rapidly spreading to other products where there’s substantial human exposure to the substance, such as cash register receipts and canned foods and beverages.

Bisphenol A helps make plastic products durable and shatter-resistent, and has been widely used in bottles, computers, CD cases, bicycle helmets, baby pacifiers and other items.

BPA also is used in canned food and drink linings to prevent corrosion, contamination and spoilage. It has proved highly effective at warding off bacterial infections such as botulism.

However, BPA is an endocrine disrupter that mimics the effects of estrogen in the human body. Though there are disputes among scientists — largely between independent and industry-funded researchers — scores of studies have shown potential health hazards from exposure to BPA, including breast and prostate cancer, heart disease and obesity.

Canned food battle looms

Canned food is shaping up as the next major battlefield. “We need to get it out of the food supply,” Thompson says.

But bisphenol A has safeguarded the canned food supply for four or five decades, so it’s “no light matter” trying to find a reliable substitute, says Peter Truitt, president of Salem’s Truitt Brothers Inc. “We’re not going to run the risk of making someone ill,” he says, referring to BPA’s role in preventing food-borne bacteria. “We know that risk. It brings you to your knees overnight.”

However, studies show BPA in canned goods leaches into the food and beverages, particularly in foods that are fatty and highly acidic, such as tomato products.

A 2011 research project by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration detected BPA in 71 of 78 canned foods it tested. “It is well established that residual BPA . . . migrates into can contents during processing and storage,” the FDA reported.

A 2011 report by the Breast Cancer Fund tested canned foods and found widely varying amounts of BPA, even in health foods. It was detected in Spaghettios, Chef Boyardee pasta and meatballs, Earth’s Best Organic Noodlemania Soup and Anni’s Homegrown Cheesy Ravioli.

More.

Image from Flickr.

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