BPA ban gets unanimous Senate approval

Posted April 12, 2011, at 1:20 p.m.
Last modified April 12, 2011, at 10:52 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill banning the controversial chemical additive bisphenol-A, or BPA, has been approved by the full Legislature.

The state Senate voted 35-0 on Tuesday to prohibit the use of BPA in reusable food and beverage containers, such as children’s sippy cups, beginning next year. The unanimous Senate action followed a 145-3 vote in the House of Representatives last week.

Public health and environmental groups cheered the Legislature’s endorsement of a ban on BPA, an additive used in hardened plastics as well as in the liners of tin cans. The vote also represented a significant policy break between the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

LePage has questioned the need for state action on the issue and sparked outrage among some when he joked that BPA’s worst side-effect was that women would grow “little beards.”

The bill, LD 412, will now be sent to LePage for his consideration. The governor could veto the bill, although the measure passed both chambers of the Legislature with strong, veto-proof majorities. LePage also could allow the bill to become law without signing it.

Under a process laid out by the Board of Environmental Protection and now approved by the Legislature, manufacturers of reusable food and beverage containers will be prohibited from selling products that contain BPA in Maine beginning Jan. 1, 2012. BPA was the first product banned under Maine’s Kid-Safe Products Act.

BPA has been the subject of intense scrutiny in recent years as a growing body of scientific studies suggest a link between the chemical and learning disabilities, reproductive problems, cancer and obesity. Because the chemical can mimic or disrupt hormones, critics claim it is particularly dangerous to children.

Maine now joins nine states plus Canada that have taken steps to restrict the use of BPA in consumer products, and many manufacturers are voluntarily dropping the chemical. But representatives of the chemical industry and other product manufacturers cite other scientific studies and governmental reviews maintaining that BPA is safe.

“We applaud the bipartisan consensus of lawmakers to protect children’s health,” Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, said in a statement. “This victory for Maine families continues Maine’s tradition of embracing common sense safer chemical policies.”

While supporters of the proposed BPA ban were able to claim victory Tuesday, a bigger fight still looms in the Legislature.

Lawmakers are considering a measure, LD 1129, that would rewrite various aspects of the Kid-Safe Products Act, the 3-year-old state law that established a process for the Department of Environmental Protection and the BEP to regulate and potentially ban chemicals in consumer products.

That bill is still pending in a legislative committee.

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