PLASTICS NEWS Oct. 27, 2006
ACC, others sue
to overturn BPA ban
The American Chemistry Council and several retail and manufacturing associations have asked the Superior Court of California to set aside an ordinance that bans the sale, manufacture and distribution of products that contain bisphenol A and are intended for children under 3 years old.
The ordinance also bans toys and child care articles for children under 3 that are made with or contain phthalates. Phthalates are used to soften plastics used to make food containers, toys, pacifiers and teething rings.
The coalition of business groups asked the court Oct. 25 for a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from going into effect Dec. 1. Judge Peter Busch was expected to set a hearing on that motion for sometime after Nov. 16.
The ban would be the first in the U.S. against products that contain BPA. It was passed June 6 by the San Francisco board of supervisors and signed into law June 15 by Mayor Gavin Newsom.
The products at the heart of the controversy are polycarbonate baby bottles, as well as baby food and infant formula sold in cans or jars with metal tops, as they contain epoxy resins made from BPA.
A number of government bodies globally - including the the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Food and Drug Administration - all have deemed BPA not harmful in the past three years. In addition, an evaluation of more than 70 animal studies published in the peer-reviewed journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology said earlier this year that the weight of evidence "does not support the hypothesis that low doses of BPA adversely affect human reproduction and development health."
"The ordinance is legally and scientifically flawed," said Steven Hentges, executive director of the PC business unit of the American Plastics Council, which is part of ACC. "We need to set the record straight" so that other cities don't look to adopt similar laws, he said in a phone interview Oct. 25.
The lawsuit filed by ACC, the California Grocers Association, the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, the California Retailers Association and the largest children's department store in San Francisco, Citikids Baby Store, also asked the court to declare the ordinance invalid on the grounds that the city failed to follow its own requirements in enacting the law and on the grounds it is pre-empted by California and/or federal law.
"The ordinance was rushed through without full consideration of the economic consequences or the science underlying it," said Daniel Kolkey, a lawyer with San Francisco law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the coalition members. "The city of San Francisco doesn't have the authority to regulate things already regulated by the federal and state governments. If every city did that, it would be a recipe for chaos."
The FDA has approved BPA
for use in food packaging.
"The FDA has approved polycarbonate baby bottles and epoxy resins that line every metal can and the metal lids of jars," Kolkey said.
The lawsuit argues the ordinance also would force vendors to pull from their shelves no-spill baby cups and plastic utensils, plates and bowls made with polycarbonate.
The lawsuit also notes that the state of California has adopted FDA's regulations for those products, precluding municipalities from establishing conflicting regulation.
"We think the pre-emption arguments are pretty strong and that the city does not have the authority to trump what the FDA is doing," Hentges said.
The lawsuit also contends that the San Francisco board of supervisors failed to make an economic analysis of the impact of the ordinance as required by Proposition I, which was approved by city voters in 2002. The lawsuit called that failure "an abuse of discretion" and said the ordinance will "egregiously impact toy retailers, grocers and consumers."
Richard Woo, owner of Citikids, estimates the ordinance could prevent him from selling one-third of the products that he has in stock.
About 6 billion pounds of BPA isproduced globally, with 25 percent manufactured in the United States.
The legislators in
California, Maryland and Minnesota found no
compelling reason to support the bills and, in each state, the bills
were not approved.
San Francisco Chronicle. March 31, 2005
considers bill to ban chemical from kids' products
Bisphenol A found in pacifiers, toys and baby bottles.
An obscure chemical in hard plastic baby bottles, liners inside canned food and some water containers lies at the center of controversy as the California Legislature considers a bill to ban it in children's products.
If passed, California would be the first state to limit its use.
Bisphenol A -- the prime chemical in making the polycarbonate plastic popular in durable, clear Nalgene water bottles -- has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years from scientists who caution that it's found in thousands of consumer products and has invaded the human body.
Industry representatives say the chemical in the products remains at insignificant concentrations, and they maintain that nationwide tests compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the bisphenol A levels in people aren't worrisome. The Food and Drug Administration permits its use.
But researchers have found that at doses below or at a federal safety guideline, the chemical can disrupt hormone systems of lab animals, affecting the workings of their brains.
Bisphenol A has been used for decades in the manufacture of tough plastics known as polycarbonate plastics. The plastics make up a wide variety of products, primarily food and drink packaging and containers such as hard, clear and sometimes tinted Nalgene water bottles, and in toys, pacifiers, baby bottles and teethers.
The chemical is also used in epoxy resins that coat food cans, bottle tops and water supply pipes, and as sealants for children's teeth for the prevention of cavities.
Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland, became aware of the chemical's possible hazards through her work on the Select Committee on Children's Health and School Readiness and introduced a bill last month that would prohibit the manufacture or sale of any product intended for use by a child 3 years of age or younger, if it contains bisphenol A.
The bill, AB319, also would ban in toys and child care articles certain forms of phthalates, plastic softeners.
The committee, which she heads, has turned up a number of studies showing that bisphenol A and some phthalates can cause hormone and nerve damage in young children, she said.
Chan, whose legislation led to the banning of two forms of flame retardant two years ago, said she was "shocked to find out that there were chemicals in toys that babies put in their mouths and in baby bottles.''
"We just shouldn't have these products on the market in California,'' Chan said.
According to 1999 industry data, about 2 billion pounds of bisphenol A are produced yearly in the United States. In the last 10 years, criticism has grown with studies showing that bisphenol A can leach from products under high heat and alkaline conditions, and the rate of leaching is affected by the age, condition and wear of the products.
Nalge Nunc International, which makes Nalgene bottles, didn't return calls.
The American Plastics Council, which represents companies that use bisphenol A, maintains that the amount of leaching isn't significant. The group opposes the Chan bill.
"The bill is written fairly broadly,'' said spokesman Steve Hentges. A ban on bisphenol A could potentially eliminate the coating used to line cans to prevent metal from corroding into foods. "You can't make polycarbonate without it.''
At this point, Chan said, her bill doesn't attempt to regulate the bisphenol A in food cans.
As for the health effects, Hentges said, "The evidence has been examined by governments and scientific bodies worldwide. In every case, the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health at the extremely low levels to which people might be exposed.''
But an author of one of the new studies, Thomas Zoeller, a thyroid endocrinologist and chairman of the University of Massachusetts' biology department, said researchers had shown that humans were widely exposed to bisphenol A, a chemical that can disrupt animal hormone systems that affect the workings of the brain.
Further, it appears to accumulate at higher concentrations around the fetus -- in the umbilical cord and the amniotic fluid -- than in the mother's blood, said Zoeller, a leading authority on fetal thyroid development. While it's not clear what the affects are on humans, Zoeller and his colleagues published a study in the journal Endocrinology in February showing that, in lab animals, bisphenol A altered the ability of thyroid hormone to correctly regulate brain development.
In another study, expected in an upcoming issue of the journal Neuroscience, a University of Tokyo group found that bisphenol A inhibited the positive role of estrogen in enhancing neural connections in a part of the brain involved in the formation and retention of memory, the hippocampus.
And a study by researchers from Yale University School of Medicine and Helen Hayes Hospital, affiliated with Columbia University Medical School, also found negative effects on the hippocampus. The study was published in February by Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
Scientists recognize that an increased rate of synapse formation may benefit memory, and the hormone estrogen in both the female and male brain is important in terms of increasing the density of synapses.
Yet, when the Yale and Helen Hayes researchers injected extremely low doses of bisphenol A in rats, "the positive effect of the estrogen was strongly inhibited because there were fewer synapses,'' said Neil J. MacLusky, a developmental neuroendocrinologist at the hospital's Center for Neural Recovery and Rehabilitation Research.
"We don't know that it necessarily means anything for human beings,'' he said. "But if these kinds of biological effects occur in humans, it raises serious issues.''
that may contain the chemical bisphenol A:
-- Hard, clear plastic baby bottles.
-- Hard, clear, sometimes tinted, plastic water bottles.
-- Hard, clear plastic bowls, tableware, storage containers.
-- Liners inside food and drink cans
-- Dental sealant to prevent cavities
-- Electronic equipment
-- Sports safety equipment
-- Medical devices
-- Pet carriers
-- Spray-on flame retardants
Source: American Plastics Council