Protecting Wisconsin Kids from Toxic BPA

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Doyle signs bill limiting BPA use

By Meg Kissinger and Patrick Marley

March 3, 2010

Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill into law Wednesday that bans BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups for children age 3 and younger, making Wisconsin the third state to do so.

The law, which takes effect in June, prohibits the manufacture and wholesale of those items. It also requires that such bottles and cups be labeled "BPA Free."

Wisconsin's action is the latest in a growing movement to rid children's products of the chemical.

"It seems to me that if there's a question of (safety), the balance we should strike is on protecting our children," Doyle said. "We must continue our proud and progressive tradition of passing laws to keep our citizens safe."

Bans are in place in Minnesota, Connecticut, the city of Chicago and three counties in New York. Last week, Maryland lawmakers passed a similar bill. Bills are pending in Washington, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

The Wisconsin measure was introduced last year by Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) and Rep. Kelda Helen Roys (D-Madison), who said they became concerned about BPA after reading about its effects in a series in the Journal Sentinel, which has conducted a three-year investigation into the chemical's use.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate in January and on a 95-2 vote last month in the Assembly.

Doyle said he hoped Wisconsin's law would push more manufacturers to stop using the chemical in all children's products.

"As more and more states ban this, it becomes impractical for any manufacturer to use BPA in the manufacture of these bottles and cups," he said.

Bruce Speight, director of the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, praised the law but said more action is needed.

"This is just the first step," Speight said in a statement. "Our kids are exposed to thousands of toxic chemicals, most of which are on the market with little to no safety testing."

BPA was developed as a synthetic estrogen in the late 1800s. Since the 1960s, it has been used to make hard, clear plastic. BPA is used in thousands of household applications, including the lining of most food and beverage cans, many dental sealants, eyeglasses, CDs, DVDs and water bottles.

Plastic-makers maintain that the chemical is safe, but an increasing number of studies have found that BPA interrupts the endocrine system. Tests on lab animals have linked the chemical to breast and prostate cancer, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, hyperactivity, sexual dysfunction and reproductive failure.

Health concerns identified

Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reversed its position and declared that BPA was of some concern for the prostates, behavior and brains of fetuses, infants and young children.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors the chemical in air and water, plans to include BPA as a "chemical of concern" in the next two years.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent EPA director Lisa Jackson a letter demanding that she explain why the agency hasn't fast-tracked the chemical for regulation, despite tough talk by her last year. Schumer cited a Journal Sentinel article from last month reporting that the EPA had backed off eight days after lobbyists for BPA-makers met with Obama administration representatives to make their case that the chemical should not be regulated.

The newspaper's investigation found that federal regulators allowed the chemical industry to write entire sections of its earlier decisions on the chemical's safety. Regulators allowed BPA-makers to review certain scientific studies before their own scientists had a chance to review the material. They relied on industry lobbyists to monitor other regulatory efforts and looked to them for advice on how to deal with the media.

Industry lobbyists have spent more than $200 million in recent years to minimize the dangers of chemicals, including BPA..

Other action

Doyle on Wednesday also signed bills that would:

• Require state agencies to ensure work performed by contractors is done in the United States in most cases. Democrats who pushed the bill said it would help prevent jobs from being shipped overseas.

The law includes exceptions for work that cannot be done in the U.S. or that is paid with federal subsidies or gifts and grants to the University of Wisconsin System.

• Limit the sale of salvinorin A, the active ingredient in the hallucinogenic plant Salvia divinorum. Law enforcement officials have said the largely unregulated drug has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Under the new law, the drug cannot be manufactured, distributed or delivered for human consumption except in a form as a homeopathic drug recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Those who violate the prohibition would be subject to a fine of up to $10,000.

Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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