A proposal to ban a chemical in baby products and food and beverage containers that has been linked to a range of health problems will go before the public next week.

The Maine Board of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing on whether to ban the sale of baby bottles, sippy cups and reusable food and beverage containers that contain bisphenol-A at 1 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Holiday Inn and Ground Round in Augusta.

The Department of Environmental Protection has proposed the ban, which would take effect in 2012. The chemical, also known as BPA, is used to make clear, shatter-resistant polycarbonate plastics.

BPA has been shown in animal studies to disrupt the hormone systems and has been linked to cancer, obesity and other diseases. Bans have been adopted in Connecticut, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Many manufacturers have voluntarily removed the chemical from children’s products. It is also widely used in the lining of food cans, but Maine’s ban would not affect canned foods.

The proposed ban is the result of a 2008 Maine law that seeks to protect children from harmful chemicals. The law directed the DEP to prioritize the most dangerous chemicals in products for children. BPA is the first chemical to go through the process.

Andrea Lani, an environmental specialist for the DEP, said the department is still working out details for penalties and how the law would be enforced.

Environmental groups in Maine have been urging their members to attend the hearing. The Toxics Action Center will release a report on the dangers of exposure to BPA at a press conference at 10:30 a.m. today at Lobsterman’s Park in Portland.

“It is just really dangerous stuff and there are safer alternatives available that are already in use and in commerce,” said Meredith Small, director of the Toxics Action Center.

It is less obvious who will oppose the ban in Maine. The chemical industry and grocery manufacturers have opposed bans in other states. Curtis Picard, executive director of the Maine Merchants Association, said his group initially expressed concerns when the law was debated in the Legislature.

“We wanted the law to include stakeholder input and be based on sound science,” he said.

But Picard said he is not sure whether the retail association will take a stand on the possible ban.

The comment period on the proposal will end Aug. 30. Lani said that if the ban is approved by the board — an independent group of 10 lay people appointed by the governor — it will go back to the Legislature, then back to the board for final approval.

 

Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: bquimby@pressherald.com