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Originally published Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Bill would ban chemical from baby products

The federal government says bisphenol A is safe in low doses, but Katharine Bond wants to limit her daughter's exposure to it. So do Washington lawmakers.

The Associated Press

Information

Washington Legislature: www.leg.wa.gov

Washington Toxics Coalition: www.watoxics.org/

American Chemistry Council: www.americanchemistry.com/

Katharine Bond doesn't buy baby bottles, sippy cups or other items that contain a controversial chemical, for fear it could harm her baby.

The federal government says bisphenol A is safe in low doses, but Bond wants to limit her daughter's exposure to it. So do Washington lawmakers.

They're backing a House bill to ban the chemical, known as BPA, in food or drink containers for children age 3 and younger, including plastic baby bottles and infant formula.

"Even small amounts of BPA can be very toxic to babies and young children," said Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, sponsor of House Bill 1180.

A hearing is scheduled Wednesday in the House Environmental Health Committee. Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, is sponsoring a similar measure in the Senate.

The bills will face stiff opposition from the chemical and plastics industry, which has helped defeat proposals in other states.

BPA's been "evaluated by many government agencies in the world," said Steve Hentges, executive director of the American Chemistry Council's BPA panel. And "all of them support the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a significant risk to human health."

BPA is a key ingredient in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics used in numerous products, including CDs, DVDs, sports bottles and reusable food and drink containers. BPA is also an ingredient in epoxy resins used to line metal cans that hold food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says trace amounts of the chemical that leach out of food containers or drink bottles aren't dangerous.

But an independent panel of scientific advisers, asked by the FDA to review its assessment, has challenged that conclusion.

Canada has banned the sale of BPA in plastic baby bottles.

Some scientists are concerned that BPA could be harmful because it mimics some of the effects of estrogen, a powerful hormone.

Even in very low doses, BPA can lead to a variety of health effects, said Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana, assistant professor in pediatrics at the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital.

"Low doses have been associated with increased proliferation of uterine, breast, and prostate tumor cells," she said.

Infants are more vulnerable, she said, because their neural and reproductive systems are still developing. She recommends that pregnant women, babies and infants avoid exposure.

About 93 percent of Americans have traces of bisphenol in their urine, according to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 6 million pounds of bisphenol are produced in the U.S. each year.

The proposed ban would begin July 1, 2010. It would prohibit BPA in food and drink containers made for children 3 and under, including sippy cups, baby bottles and cans of liquid infant formula. It also bans it in reusable drink bottles.

The measure directs the Department of Ecology to find alternatives to bisphenol A by July 2012 for food and drink containers that aren't already banned.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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