Senate Adopts BPA Restrictions

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(Host) The Vermont Senate voted to ban a chemical linked to cancer that’s found in food and drink containers.

The Senate bill would limit the use of bisphenol-A. The measure won final approval today.

VPR’s  John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The chemical industry uses bisphenol-A, or BPA, to harden plastic. And the stuff is ubiquitous in a host of commercial food and beverage products. It’s in the liners of metal cans, it’s found in coffee cups made from recycled paper, and it’s used to make baby food containers.

Studies have shown that BPA can mimic the hormone estrogen – and exposure has been linked to cancer and other diseases.

Windsor Senator Dick McCormack said the debate over product safety should transcend traditional politics.

(McCormack) "And I think it’s important that we understand that this is not a bill about consensus, it’s not a bill about left or right or moderation. It’s a bill about stuff that gives you cancer."

(Dillon) The Senate bill prohibits the use of BPA in plastic food and reusable drink containers starting in 2012. A separate ban on BPA in cans of baby food and infant formula begins in 2014.

But the Senate exempted from the ban the large plastic jugs used to hold bottled water.

Chittenden Senator Virginia Lyons, who chairs the Natural Resources Committee, said the bottled water industry said it didn’t have a ready-replacement for the BPA bottles.

(Lyons) "So we really focused on some of the re-usables that are currently on the market and the food containers that are so critical for little ones."

(Dillon) The Senate vote came after opponents tried to push through an amendment that would have required a study instead of a more extensive ban on BPA. Bennington Senator Dick Sears pointed out that the federal government recently classified BPA as a chemical of concern – and had launched studies of its impact on the environment. Sears said it was better to wait for more information.

(Sears) "So the study would be available if the legislature at that time chooses to ban any and all items containing BPA – including the water jugs that we just voted on – they can do so. But they will do so with better information than we have today."

(Dillon) But Senator Lyons argued against the study amendment. She said children are being exposed now as the chemical leaches out of food containers.

(Lyons) It has affects on their little developing bodies, and it’s affecting neuro-biological development. And this stuff is affecting later consequences on development, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cancers when they get older. 

(Dillon) If the bill becomes law, Vermont would become the second state after Connecticut to aggressively restrict the use of the chemical.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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