AUGUSTA – A legislative panel voted unanimously Friday to support banning sales of toys, sippy cups, baby bottles and similar products containing the chemical Bisphenol-A.

No one among about 30 people who testified before the Environment and Natural Resources Committee opposed the ban.

It would be the first ban on products to come as a result of the 2008 law known as the Kid Safe Products Act, which established an extensive process of review for chemical regulation.

Despite expressing opposition to the proposed ban earlier this year, Gov. Paul LePage’s administration dropped its opposition, in testimony by Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Darryl Brown.

“We support scientific inquiries into the examination of safer alternatives regarding certain chemicals and compounds, and as is the case with BPA, we believe the marketplace is already moving toward safer alternatives,” he said. “Our first choice is to always encourage market forces to undertake actions voluntarily and not jump to a prohibition on sales of certain products.”

BPA has been studied extensively by public health advocates, toxicologists and scientists. Most studies have concluded that the endocrine-disrupting chemical poses cancer risks to children and pregnant women. Multinational companies including Walmart, Toys R Us and Gerber are phasing out the sale of bottles containing BPA.

Earlier this year, LePage included repealing the BPA ban in a proposal he submitted to lawmakers that was aimed at improving Maine’s business climate.

He later made national headlines by saying he had not seen any scientific evidence to support concerns about BPA, and by joking that the worst-case effect of the chemical would be some women growing “little beards.”

When asked about the change in the administration’s position, Brown said, “The testimony that I have presented today has also been provided to the governor’s office with no adverse comments and, again, I want to stress that this is the position that the department has taken,” he said.

Late Friday, the governor’s office issued a statement that said LePage himself still opposes the ban.

“Gov. LePage continues to believe, absent consensus science supporting product prohibitions, the BPA rule developed by the last administration should not go into effect,” Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s press secretary, said in the statement.

Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, said he was pleasantly surprised with the administration’s change in position.

Matt Prindiville of the Natural Resources Council of Maine said: “More reasonable voices prevailed in the governor’s office.”

Environmentalists, scientists and others turned out to support the ban, which would take effect Jan. 1 and be targeted at children’s products. At least eight other states and several other countries have banned BPA from baby bottles.

Maureen Drouin, representing Maine’s Environmental Priorities Coalition, said the BPA ban is one of the group’s top legislative priorities.

“We all have a stake in helping kids and families stay healthy,” she said. “Preventing disease is a smart investment because kids do better in school, healthy workers are more productive and lower health costs are good for everyone.”

Representatives of various business interests, such as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Beverage Association, the Maine Grocers Association and the Maine Merchants Association, joined the administration in testifying neither for nor against the measure.

But many raised concerns about the underlying law, the Kid Safe Products Act, which will be the subject of a public hearing Monday.

The Legislature will schedule votes on the legislation in the coming weeks.

MaineToday Media State House Writer Rebekah Metzler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at: [email protected]