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Oregon lawmakers are taking another look at banning a potentially harmful chemical from baby bottles and sippy cups, a year after a similar idea narrowly died in the Legislature.
This time, the proposal has picked up bipartisan support in the Senate, where three Democrats joined all Republicans last year to defeat it by one vote. Environmental and public health advocates say the chemical bisphenol-A interferes with hormones in young children, sometimes causing the early onset of puberty and severe health problems later in life. Opponents of a ban say there's no proof the chemical is unsafe in food containers.
There's "an incredible feeling of safety" knowing that all paint in the hardware store is lead free and safe for children, Susan Beal, a mother of two young children, told lawmakers on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday. Children's food products should be the same way, she said.
"There's not one wrong choice there," she said of a paint store. "And that feeling is not on the baby aisle at the grocery store or the drug store."
BPA is commonly used to harden plastics and make them shatterproof, as well to line food cans. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration voiced "some concern" about the possible effects of the chemical on children and infants and is taking steps to reduce human exposure to BPA while the agency studies the chemical in more depth.
SB 695 would ban the sale of baby bottles, sippy cups or reusable water bottles containing BPA beginning next year. It also would require infant formula used in the Women, Infants and Children program for low-income mothers to contain no more than minuscule amounts of BPA beginning in 2013.
Container manufacturers told lawmakers that there's no proof that small amounts of BPA are harmful to children and there's no approved alternative container for infant formula.
"We believe a prohibition of infant formula containing BPA is not supported by science," said Robert Rankin of the International Formula Council, which represents manufacturers of infant formula.
Republican Sens. Jason Atkinson of Grants Pass and Brian Boquist of Dallas have signed on to support the ban this year after voting against it last year. Boquist said he's interested in creating new markets for Oregon manufacturers to sell BPA-free products.
This year's proposal would create a process to certify that a product is BPA free, creating new opportunities for Oregon companies, Boquist said.
"What we're trying to do is make sure we lead the way," Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, D-Portland, said after the hearing. "It should be done at the national level, and since it's not being done at the national level it's incumbent on us to make sure we're protecting public health."