San Francisco Chronicle, March 31, 2005
Legislature considers bill to ban chemical from kids' products
Bisphenol A found in pacifiers, toys and baby bottles / Largest US producers: Bayer, Dow, GE Plastics
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.'' (by Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer)
Products 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
San Francisco Chronicle
February 28, 2007
Lawmaker wants state to follow city's lead with 'toxic toy' ban
Bill would bar certain chemicals in products
Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Toys and child care products that contain certain chemicals would be banned in California under a bill introduced Tuesday by a San Francisco assemblywoman.
Democrat Fiona Ma's "toxic toy'' bill, which mirrors a San Francisco law, would ban the manufacture, sale and distribution of the products beginning in 2009 if they contain bisphenol A. The chemical is a building block of hard, polycarbonate plastic.
The legislation would also limit chemicals called phthalates, which soften polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, in products intended for children 3 and under.
Environmental groups support the bill; chemical manufacturers and some toymakers and retailers oppose it.
Also this week, activist group Environment California released results of a test it ordered from an independent lab, which found that name-brand baby bottles leach one of the chemicals restricted under Ma's bill.
Those test results are consistent with other data showing new polycarbonate bottles leach small amounts of bisphenol A in levels that have caused abnormalities in the mammary and prostate glands and the female eggs of laboratory animals, scientists say. Animal tests also show bisphenol A can speed up puberty and add to weight gain.
For its tests, Environment California purchased three bottles from Dr. Brown's by Handi-craft Co., Evenflo, Gerber, Philips Avent and Playtex. At the lab, technicians tested the bottles after filling them with 176-degree water for 24 hours to simulate 50 to 75 sanitizing cycles in a dishwasher.
Representatives of the bottle companies said their products meet federal standards and argued that exposure from plastic bottles, cups and other food containers doesn't pose any known risk to human health. Bisphenol A, a chemical that mimics estrogen, is also used in liners of food cans, some anti-cavity sealants for children and electronics.
Steve Hentges, an industry spokesman at the American Chemistry Council, criticized the tests ordered by Environment California and performed at the University of Missouri, one of the few labs that can do the tests.
The tests didn't adequately simulate the real use of bottles and the exposure to babies, he said. In any case, the leached amounts were low, he said.
On Tuesday, leading university bisphenol A researchers disagreed with Hentges. In the last several years, dozens of independent studies, most sponsored by government agencies, have shown that the chemical can cause serious problems in lab animals at low doses, they said.
Pat Hunt, a biosciences professor at Washington State University at Pullman who has studied the effects of bisphenol A on lab animals, said the simulation used in the test contracted by Environment California was appropriate. There is no single protocol for the leach tests, she said. Consumers heat, wash and store liquid in the bottles in many different ways, she said.
Frederick vom Saal, a biological science professor at the University of Missouri, said the amounts of bisphenol A that leached from the bottles were 1,000 times higher than levels associated with changes to mammary glands, disruption of hormones and the early onset of puberty in lab animals. Vom Saal was not directly involved in conducting the tests.
Ma, as a San Francisco supervisor before she was elected to the Legislature, backed the city's ordinance, which won unanimous approval in July. Now she is carrying the legislation initiated in the last legislative session by former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan, D-Oakland. The bill died in committee last year after vigorous lobbying and a series of hearings.
Industry and business groups have filed two lawsuits against the San Francisco ordinance, charging that the federal government has authority over toy safety, among other complaints.
The San Francisco supervisors have proposed some amendments to the law, including some that would add penalties but narrow the law's scope. The regulation of bisphenol A would be delayed for a year, after which the supervisors would review whether the state had passed a bill.
see also: "Bisphenol A - A known Endocrine Disruptor": http://www.wwf.org.uk/filelibrary/pdf/bpa.pdf